WESTBOROUGH, Mass. - Cumberland Farms has filed a lawsuit against six Massachusetts cities and towns claiming regulations banning convenience stores from selling flavored tobacco and nicotine products are discriminatory.
According to the Westborough-based company, the boards of health in Barnstable, Billerica, Framingham, Sharon, Somerville and Walpole recently adopted new regulations based on a model developed and advocated by a private organization.
The complaint states the regulations arbitrarily force Cumberland Farms to stop selling many flavored tobacco and nicotine products, while allowing competing businesses like smoke shops to continue selling them.
"Cumberland Farms is in the business of retailing the products that our guests want. That's why we are here to celebrate our 80th anniversary this year," said Brian Glennon, General Counsel for Cumberland Farms. "We are proud of our excellent compliance rates in selling age-restricted products. Nobody does it better than Cumberland Farms, which is why we find the new regulations so nonsensical and frustrating. We're simply calling for a level playing field where we can continue to serve all of our customers, without unelected local officials taking away their right to choose where to shop and what to buy."
In the complaint, Cumberland Farms points to studies cited by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which have found a substantial disparity in where underage users obtain tobacco products.
According to the complaint, up to 80% of underage users rely on friends or relatives, not an underage retail sale. In cases where a retail outlet is directly involved, most underage sales occur either online (32.2%) or at vape shops and tobacconists (38.7%). In contrast, convenience stores, gas stations and liquor stores together account for just a single-digit minority of such sales (5.6%).
In a submission to the FDA earlier this year, Cumberland Farms also highlighted similar findings from a preliminary analysis of Massachusetts age verification compliance data, which showed vape shops and tobacconists have consistently underperformed the state average for at least the past three years.
In addition to the lawsuit, a petition was made available at Cumberland Farms stores in Barnstable to try and get the town to pull back regulations, which became effective on Monday. The company said more than a thousand signatures were gathered in fewer than three days.
Cumberland Farms, which has more than two-hundred convenience stores in Massachusetts, filed the lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday.
Boston 25 News reached out to each of the six cities and towns named in the lawsuit for comment.
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