On March 17, the Wellesley Board of Health voted unanimously to reject tobacco retailer Blue Moon Smoke Shops’ application to open a location in the town.
Blue Moon Smoke Shops applied early in December to obtain a Tobacco Product Sales Permit occupying 9 Washington Street, a location neighboring a Sunoco petrol station already licensed to sell tobacco products. The business, which sells an assortment of smoking accessories from pipes to vaporizers, already operates fourteen other stores around the Greater Boston area.
The board rejected the application on the premise of Section F.10.C of Chapter 18 in the Wellesley Board of Health Tobacco Regulation, stating that a Tobacco Product Sales Permit can not be issued to applicants opening locations within 500 feet from another retailer with a Tobacco Product Sales Permit.
“If there’s a regulation, I would have looked outside of the 500 feet,” said Marcia Testa Simonson, Vice Chair of the Board of Health. “There are other places in Wellesley that might meet that criteria.”
Kitty Huang, the owner of Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine, a restaurant that operates next to 9 Washington Street, disapproves of the inconveniences of opening a new store in the area, and is concerned about the safety of her customers.
“We already have a problem for parking, and we’re already busy,” said Huang. “You can see families every day. I don’t want to make my clients, customers, and kids have an early education of tobacco.”
Wellesley resident Laura Grossman expressed a similar sentiment.
“To come out of a restaurant and have people smoking on the block is really deterrent and terrible for a business,” said Grossman.
Blue Moon Smoke Shops faced similar setbacks in 2021 when the business made plans to open on Charles Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. After over 160 community members voiced their disapproval, Blue Moon owner Malik Hyat withdrew his application for a tobacco selling permit, and dissolved Blue Moon’s lease agreement with his landlord.
The Beacon Hill Civic Association stressed that the close proximity of the smoke shop to local schools could potentially exacerbate a crisis of smoking among children.
Wellesley students also anticipate the influences and effects that opening a smoke shop in the town would have upon the younger population.
“I think they made the right decision,” said JM Foland ’22, mentioning the dining facilities and children surrounding the Washington Street area. “It overall feels a bit predatory opening in Wellesley, knowing how many kids try and often succeed to get products.”
“Some students at the high school even sell these products to other students, even middle schoolers,” said Vivian Pan ’25. ‘Not only will opening a smoke shop affect other businesses around it, it will also endanger the well-being of our town.”
The CDC reports that 5.6 million people under eighteen would die early from smoking-related causes if tobacco usage rates among teens continues to persist, with 13.4 percent of high school students reporting to have tried tobacco products in the past thirty days.
Blue Moon Smoke Shops emphasizes its ten-year expertise in tobacco retail, referencing the safety measures put in place to prevent minors from gaining access to their products.
“Blue Moon Boston has never received any citations,” said Corain McGinn, an attorney representing Blue Moon Smoke Shops at the board meeting. “We’ve already addressed the notion that we never sell to minors. We always check I.D.s before they even get in the door.”
One Board of Health member who previously visited existing Blue Moon locations attests otherwise. “I unfortunately did not observe ages being checked,” said Board of Health Secretary Linda Oliver Grape. “I was also very concerned by the language and the music that was being played in the stores.”
“I know there is a bridge from Newton to Wellesley leading us to those restaurants,” said Wellesley resident Shine Zhen. “If the tobacco store will be there, it’s going to be like the first impression of Wellesley to people from the Newton direction.