DRACUT -- Shelves in convenience stores and gas stations are empty now of vaping products and flavored cigars. The town's ban on the sale of those products -- except in smoke shops -- took effect March 1.
"Everything is going great," said Health Agent David Ouellette, who has been managing Dracut's ban on such nicotine sales.
The Board of Health banned tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21 in December to beat a state-mandated deadline of Jan. 1. Waiting until January would have grandfathered existing 18- to 20-year-old smokers by law.
Ouellette was hired as the town's Health Agent last May.
"I noticed when I went through the stores and gas stations near the education complex that there were all kinds of nicotine and vaping products," he said. "They came in all kinds of flavors, including bubblegum and fruit flavors, geared toward students. I saw young kids buying this stuff."
Now, those products and flavored nicotines are gone.
"We have taken the turn," Ouellette said. "Everyone is complying. It's a good change."
A check at convenience stores showed the empty shelves where the nicotine products used to be.
The 7-Eleven at Mammoth Road and Lakeview Avenue reported a smooth transition with just a few protests.
"A couple of customers yelled at me," Jessica Cruwys said.
At the Speedway Convenience store, just across Lakeview Avenue from Dracut High School, the impact has been the amount of carding required to ensure that no one under 21 can buy tobacco products.
One of the goals of the anti-nicotine campaign is to reduce the rate of consumption in Dracut schools. Dracut reports a higher rate of vaping than other school systems in the state.
Nationwide, statistics from the Food and Drug Administration show that vaping use among high-school students in the country jumped from 1.5 percent to 11.7 percent between 2011 and 2017. In Massachusetts, on average, 7.1 percent of tobacco sales are to minors. In Dracut, the percentage jumps to 8.8.
To meet help meet the goal, a group of UMass Lowell nursing students is developing a pilot anti-vaping program that will be shared with a Dracut High health class in mid-May. Ouellette said the project is going well. The nursing students are "really collaborating," he said.
After the presentation, Ouellette intends to offer it to the whole student body and to school systems throughout the state.
In addition, students will see signs and banners across the campus as part of a campaign against vaping.