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    Mass. Officials Target Cigarette Sales

    Proposal would require convenience store operators to move tobacco products behind the counter.


    BOSTON -- Boston health officials yesterday proposed a ban on cigarette vending machines, part of a package of antismoking regulations that city officials called an antidote to Gov. Jane Swift's recent cuts to tobacco control programs.

    The regulations would also require all Boston convenience stores that sell cigarettes to prominently display city-approved antismoking posters and keep all tobacco products behind checkout counters. In addition, tobacco companies would be prohibited from distributing free tobacco, according to The Boston Globe.

    The regulations await approval by the seven-member Boston Public Health Commission, which has supported tobacco regulation in the past, though health officials plan to consider public input at a March 4 hearing. But they predict the regulations will be in effect by spring.

    In 1992, Massachusetts voters approved a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax that gave birth to a $48 million annual antismoking program focusing on education efforts and smoking-cessation treatment. Since 1995, state smoking rates have dropped by as much as one-quarter, earning the program praise from national health activists.

    But Swift, seeking to offset a $2 billion projected state budget deficit, made an emergency cut in January of $17.1 million to this year's antitobacco funds, followed by a proposed cut of $29 million from the $48 million set for 2003 tobacco control efforts. Meanwhile, cigarette sales jumped 13 percent after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and health activists worried aloud that the cuts would exacerbate the trend.

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