Health Board Penalizes Business for Underage Tobacco Sale

Great Road Gulf received a fine following the sale of tobacco to an underage buyer. Staff Photo Wayne Braverman

The Bedford Board of Health on Monday fined a local business $1,000 for selling tobacco to someone younger than 21.

Great Road Gulf at 334 The Great Road also suspended sale of tobacco products for three consecutive days during which they have to be removed from the building.

“The penalty is mandated by state law,” Chair Maureen Richichi said at the public hearing, and the board does not have the authority to mitigate it.

The violation took place at 5 p.m. on April 9 when an underage buyer who works as a subcontractor for the regional tobacco control compliance inspector came to the business and attempted to purchase a pack of cigarettes. 

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The purchaser was asked for identification and was unable to produce it, which is the protocol for compliance check. “That is where it’s supposed to end,” said Director of Health and Human Services Heidi Porter. But the product was purchased anyway.

Assistant Health Director Marisa Morello said there were two educational visits to the store, which is one of six local outlets selling tobacco products. At these sessions, owners not only are briefed on the laws, but also are advised how compliance checks work. The process “is not to trick anyone,” she said.

Owner Vinod Zaveri told the board that the clerk involved was a new employee who only works one day a week. The business changed ownership less than a year ago. 

“The state is very strict about tobacco sales to customers under 21. The Board of Health is, too,” Porter said. 

Member Anita Raj added, “Selling tobacco is a privilege. With that privilege come regulations.”

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