Originally posted at 1:25 p.m. Updated with statement from the City of Framingham at 7:07 p.m.
FRAMINGHAM – Cumberland Farms, a convenience store and gas station company, filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court today, June 25, against the City of Framingham and five other communities in Massachusetts.
Cumberland Farms claims the regulations in these six Commonwealth of Massachusetts communities are discriminatory.
The lawsuit was specifically filed against the Board of Health in the City of Framingham and the handful of other communities, because these boards are banning Cumberland Farm stores to sell flavored tobacco and nicotine products.
The lawsuit was filed against the communities of Barnstable, Billerica, Framingham, Sharon, Somerville, and Walpole.
Each Board of Health in those half dozen communities has adopted new regulations that are based on a model developed and advocated by a private organization.
According to the complaint, the regulations arbitrarily force Cumberland Farms to stop selling many flavored tobacco and nicotine products, while allowing competing businesses to continue selling them.
Among the restricted products are prominent brands like Newport menthol cigarettes, Copenhagen wintergreen smokeless tobacco, Garcia y Vega flavored cigars, and Juul vaping devices.
In copying the private organization’s model regulation, these six local Massachusetts boards have created anti-competitive marketplaces that grant monopolies to specialty stores like smoke shops and smoking bars. According to the complaint, these new restrictions have no plausible public health rationale.
“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,” said Glennon, in a media release. “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.”
SOURCE requested a statement from the City of Framingham.
This statement was sent by the City’s Public Information Officer at 6:46 p.m. It reads: “The Framingham Board of Health received a copy of the 40-page complaint filed by Cumberland Farms with exhibits this afternoon. Along with Framingham, the Boards of Health for Barnstable, Billerica, Sharon, Somerville, and Walpole have been named as defendants. The plaintiff alleges that new tobacco and vape regulations adopted by the Boards of Health for Framingham and the other defendants do not constitute reasonable health regulations permitted by G.L. c. 131, §31 and allegedly constitute an equal protection violation. The complaint has been referred to City Solicitor Christopher Petrini for review and evaluation, and provision of a defense for the Framingham Board of Health. After the City Solicitor completes his review and consults with the Health Department, the Mayor and the Board of Health, appropriate action will be taken by the City Solicitor to protect the legal interests of the Board of Health and the City generally.”
This is not the first time Cumberland Farms has spoken out against tobacco regulations. Several years ago, more than 2,000 of the chain’s local retail employees earned national attention when they sent a letter to Massachusetts legislators, pleading for a “clear and unambiguous” statewide regulatory regime
The local regulations come at a time where there is increased concern over e-cigarette use among youth
In the complaint, however, Cumberland Farms points to studies cited by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which have found a substantial disparity in where youth obtain tobacco products.
Up to 80% of underage users rely on social sources like a friend or relative, not an underage retail sale.
In those 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