Tobacco shop owner says Wareham rules 'crippling' business

By Matthew Bernat | May 03, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Louis Bourassa appears before the Board of Health on Wednesday seeking a change to tobacco rules that he claims cost him $100,000 over a year.

The owner of New England Smoke Shop appeared before the Board of Health Wednesday seeking relief from one of its regulations, saying he’s lost $100,000 in sales over the past year.

“I’ve literally watched customers I’ve had for five years drive by my shop to Bourne,” said Louis Bourassa. “I’m struggling to keep my business open.”

Bourassa took issue with the board’s rules on cigar prices. Effective April 1, 2016, the board raised the price of a single cigar to a minimum of $2.50.

Bourassa said the decision was “crippling” his business due to his store’s proximity to Bourne, where cigars sell for as little as 79 cents.

“I don’t feel it’s right, I’m being told to sell my products for more than the guy next door,” Bourassa told board members.

Bourassa cited a court case that says the state, and by extension the town, can’t regulate his prices directly in that manner. He asked board members to consider the case law and repeal the regulation. Board members said they would review that claim with legal counsel at a later date, within a few weeks at least, and release a statement.

While board members expressed some sympathy for his financial woes as a small business owner, they said he ought to consider a different line of work.

Chair Dr. Amy Wiegandt said Bourassa should look into selling something else, such as selling food, “instead of something that gives people cancer.”

Bourassa countered that whether the board likes it or not, tobacco is legal.

“We’re all adults. We have the right to make our own decisions,” he said. “If people are going to smoke, they’re going to do it.”

“We don’t have to foster it,” countered board member Thomas Gleason.

Bourassa noted he follows all other regulations put in place by the board and has a strict policy on ensuring no one under 21 is allowed in the store. His primary concern was the unfair financial advantage the board inadvertently gave Bourne businesses.

“I’m being forced to triple my prices,” said Bourassa.

Board members said they would be reviewing tobacco regulations soon and may revisit the issue, but noted they were under no obligation to change the rules. Bourassa asked to be notified of that meeting so he could attend.

“We can at least have a discussion on it,” said Wiegandt.

Comments (21)
Posted by: OBL50 | May 03, 2017 20:40

It is nice to see a group of professionals so concerned about the health and well being of the residents of Wareham; but I can only wonder the sincerity of their concern.  Yes tobacco is bad for people and leads to an becoming afflicted with disease, but there are also many other things which this same group is turning a blind eye to. ALCOHOL, and inparticular nips... Our streets are littered with empty nip bottles, are roads are filled with people who are buzzed from the 40% alcohol adult treats and out police department is burdened with domestic issues because these little bottles of poison are so easily accessable and cheap.  But we never hear a word about regulating or taxing nips... why?  The answer is plainly before us... the very same people who are grandstanding about tobacco are the ones in their suits and proper looking dress stuffing nips into their pockets at the liquor stores in the morning to get through their day and who knows, may be sitting on these regulatory boards. Go into any liqour store and watch the people buying these 40% alcohol bottles of nips.. they get in their cars, swig them down, throw the bottle out the window and drive one says a word and the problem is NEVER addressed... They are not putting them in the gift baskets they were originally intended to be for.

Dr. Amy Wiegandt  and her distinguished  board does not really give a hoot about the health of the citizens of Wareham or she would be address the alcohol problem as much as the tabacco problem... It is a simple solution, put a $5.00 tax on every nip, a $5.00 tax on every drink poured, and bottle return tax of $5.00 on every bottle of liqour sold... that would cut down on the number of closet alcoholics and reduce the number of people with drinking addictions in the town of Wareham, When this group of honorable Drs. takes action like this, then I will believe they are truly interested in the health and well being of the people and not just grand standing on an easy target to say they are working toward making the people of the town healthier!

Alcohol and its affects both on the health and welfare of society is being ignored by the very groups such as this because it is so wide spread and accepted as a necessary evil.  Some day maybe someone with a back bone will put the tobacco issue aside and and be sincere and address alcohol!  Until then groups such as the Wareham Board of Health are nothing more than a group lip movers who could in general not give a hoot about the health or well being of anybody.


Posted by: Newlyaresident | May 04, 2017 06:31

I can't believe I'm reading that Dr. Amy is telling this guy to find another line of work, like selling food instead of tobacco products. He owns a tobacco shop, and he has a legitimate beef. The town has set an arbitrary minimum retail for cigars which amounts to sales prevention. If cigar smokers want to buy a cigar, that's their decision. The Board of Health should stay out of it. The stupidity is that this guys customers are driving down the street to get what they want, so the do-gooders on the Board are doing more harm than good.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 04, 2017 07:48

The BOH only cares about being able to hob knob with other elites. Their nonsense rules are doing NOTHING to curb smoking, NOTHING. The only inconvenience consumers and hurt business and the families they provide for. While they obsess over flavored cigars the public is served from putrid food service locations and cesspools overflow. I also must say it takes a real Alpha hole to tell a business person to find an other line of work like Wiegandt did. What a pompous worm

Posted by: desertsky | May 04, 2017 07:55

What a smug response from that doctor!!! I personally hate cigars but this man has every right to run his business with the pricing that works for him to compete effectively against competitors. The comments about the nips is absolutely true..these boards have no right to determine what people can and cannot do as long as it's legal. It's called personal choice and I do believe this country has a constitution written to maintain it.

This is why the "government" (or small town hacks who feel like important people on over- regulating boards) need to be reminded that we didn't vote them in so they can run our lives. Stop expressing your personal opinion Dr., you come across like a condescending politician.


Posted by: bruce gannon | May 04, 2017 08:54

I'd like to know under what authority the board can set the retail price of an over the counter consumer product. But as a few have already commented, maybe the good doctor should find a new line of work. Your response is about as condescending as I have ever heard and I know condescending. But to my fellow citizens, we allowed this to happen when we went along with the smoking ban, oh sure no one likes the smell, second hand smoke is dangerous, but once that door is open and laws and regulations can be presented as "in the public interest for health reasons" you won't close it.


Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 04, 2017 11:53

I am NOT a cigar smoker by any means but setting minimum pricing on items?  Is this legal?  Telling a legitimate business owner that they should seek out other lines of employment?  Wow.  They are REALLY crossing the line here.  What's next?  Or should I not ask?  Everything fast food is now $10?  No.  People like fast food.  Booze is now a minimum purchase of $20?  No.  How would the doctors entertain their high $$ friends?  They will just keep banging on the smoking door.  It is borderline conflict of interest to have doctors on the BOH.  There is a line between business and LEGAL personal habits, even if they aren't healthy ones.  They wouldn't be good doctors (I assume) if they didn't try to stop people from smoking so they will ALWAYS vote against bad healthy choices even if they are legal.


Must be nice being a doctor and knowing where your next paycheck is coming from.  Not everyone has that luxury.  I hope that your bedside manners are better than your business manners.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | May 04, 2017 12:36

 I just read the article again and realized how much this comment made my blood boil. “We don’t have to foster it,” countered board member Thomas Gleason. You are not fostering anything Tommy Boy, you are trying to force your will on free Americans. You think you are superior to everyone and those that don't follow your fascist doctrine must be punished. You are no different to the punks in the black hooded sweatshirts tearing up everything because they hate freedom.

Posted by: desertsky | May 04, 2017 13:39

Maybe it's time to keep these BOH members in mind when the next election for their seats come up. Not sure how long their 
"terms"are for but I'm hoping voters will remember how obnoxiously elite the current members feel they are. I also don't know where this Dr. practices but I surely wouldn't deal with her. I think someone needs to dig further and find out exactly where the guidelines are that govern the BOH's power. (or abuse of such)

Posted by: Twiceburnt007 | May 04, 2017 17:25

I would think you'd be making buckets of money just on your "crack" pipes !!

Posted by: Hairy Buttz | May 04, 2017 17:34

Now that's hilarious Twiceburnt!!

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 04, 2017 19:56

Desertsky, I cannot find any information on whether or not the members are appointed or elected.  I suspect they are appointed, in which case we have little say in the matter.  Wiegandt and Gleason's terms expire in June.

Posted by: SammieJfive | May 04, 2017 21:11

Just a bit of information and a question. Is Dr. Amy Wiegandt married? I seem to remember a Dr. Amy Gleason from Wareham, who parents were both Dr.'s as well. Father was Charles, mother was "Betty"? They had a practice on High Street for years!!! Are she and Thomas brother and sister? That would explain why their views are very similar. I have been in this store, as well as others of this kind to purchase e-cigarette products. Although they DO sell marijuana pipes and accessories, isn't marijuana legal also?

I absolutely agree that BOH should not be involved in this. Dr. Amy made a judgment call on this mans business that was totally uncalled for!!!! And, if Thomas is her brother, which I suspect...he backed her up. If the BOH has the power to price tobacco, what next? Fast food, because that's bad for you? I can't afford a $10 Whopper! Alcohol? Back to prohibition in Wareham? Just because they "said so"? As far as I know, there are limitations on what they can do......and that has to do with inspecting public places. Found a cockroach on the bar in Charlie's Place while eating lunch. What about gas station bathrooms? Pretty disgusting for a human bodily need! What exactly does the Dept. of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms do? I know they're Federal, and suppose I could look it up. My husband installed the telephone lines in Percy's 6 years ago, and warned me to NEVER eat there. The kitchen was THAT disgusting, and they were already serving the public. A month ago, Bourne or Wareham finally closed them down to clean the place up. Took 6 years, but don't you DARE smoke a cigar! It's bad for you!!! Where does it end?



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 04, 2017 21:17

Google Dr. Amy Gleason.  First thing that comes up is:

Dr. Amy (Gleason) Wiegandt, MD

Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 04, 2017 21:35

Board of Health Members are appointed according to a 2011 Wareham Week article...(assuming the practice of appointing people to the BOH has not changed since 2011.)


Wanttoseechange - I couldn't find the answer on the town's website, so I did searches via Wareham Week'w search option  using key words that I thought might bring up an article indicating BOH members are appointed.

Posted by: Fortywhat2 | May 05, 2017 08:05

This is WRONG on so many accounts!  Our town government has been given way too much authority.  They should not have the right to determine the base price a shop owner has to sell his goods for.  Do they determine a minimum price a pet store has to sell pet food for?  Or tractor supply has to sell farming items for?  Or for that matter how much JC Penny has to sell bras and under wear for?  In my opinion they should not have such authority.  If such authority is allowable, I believe having medical doctors on a board that can make that determination is a conflict of interest.  Frankly it's non of their business if I choose to smoke.  Theses boards are just given way too much authority.  For years I have said the boards in Wareham government are given way to much authority.  I think Wareham should have a mayoral system with aldermen representing different sections and others boards should be abolished and positions should be paid positions and people hired because of their ability to do that particular position, not a popularity vote.  Just my opinion and for the record... I quit smoking years ago and worked in the medical field. So... I don't have my head in the sand!

Posted by: WWareham resident | May 05, 2017 08:57

While board members expressed some sympathy for his financial woes as a small business owner, they said he ought to consider a different line of work.--- Are you serious? That comment is absolute BS and every Board Member needs to be replaced with an attitude like that.

I don't drink so does that mean I want all packaged goods stores to go out of business or all bars, NO it does not and a comment like that from a board is DEPLORABLE. I am so mad after reading this article and feel so bad for Mr. Bourassa. This town gets worse and worse every damn week. Just who made these board members think they can play God, this is total BS.

What can we do as citizens and tax payers of this town, to help a small business owner like Mr. Bourassa besides buying cigars since I don't smoke them?




Posted by: Vrp0728 | May 07, 2017 00:48

The boh needs to stop sticking their noses where they don't belong. They put me out of business. Not because of cigar I had a motel. I will be contacting a lawyer very soon. If you think it might help the mo re people the better let me know if anyone is interested.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 07, 2017 18:56

VRP0728 if your "motel" was full of drug dealers and prostitutes while you turned a blind eye then too bad! #sorryNOTsorry

Posted by: Steve Holmes | May 08, 2017 08:50

The members are appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Mr. Ether is our Health Agent and an employee of the Town. I have known Bob for several years consider him a very good friend, and every time we had an issue he would get right on it to get it resolved. He reports to and takes direction from the Board of Health, they are a unique Town Board because they are independent and report to the State. I do agree with the comments above but why cigars? I know whole milk is not the best but I put a shot in my coffee, do you think Stop and Shop or Shaws in Wareham would stand for them regulating it now costing 10.00 a gallon. They would have their lawyers on it in a heart beat and win. This guy is a small business owner who deals with Tobacco products, looks like they would like to see another empty storefront on Main St. Nothing the BOS can do about their rulings, however they could not reappoint folks they don't agree with come June when reappointment come up for renewal.

Posted by: SGT | May 09, 2017 10:18

That is an idiotic comment by the Chair.  I want to see why they don't regulate other things that cause health problems.  Set the price acetaminophen which has been shown to cause death.  You don't like tobacco,; don't buy or use it.  This is typical of the invasiveness of the liberal mindset in this country.  Don't like it - regulate it out of existence.  The doctors kill people everyday.

Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause Of U.S Deaths, Researchers Say - NPR

Let's tax the heck out of them to pay for funerals and the families left behind.


Posted by: cranky pants | May 09, 2017 14:09

Funny stuff right here...

We'll allow methadone and suboxone clinics, but this fella can't sell tobacco products.

Highest of fives board bullies.

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