By Anna Meiler

SOMERVILLE (CBS) – Starting next year, e-cigarettes will only be available in 21-plus tobacco stores in Somerville. The city says they are the first municipality in Massachusetts to implement these restrictions.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Surgeon General declared e-cigarettes an epidemic nationwide. The number of high school students who admit using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days is up 75-percent over last year. Vaping among middle schoolers increased nearly 50-percent.

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(Image credit: CBS News)

Health officials in Somerville say their local numbers match the troubling national trend.

“It’s very alarming and it should be alarming for our parents as well. We have to remember a lot of times parents and young kids don’t even realize the impact these products and vaping and e-cigarettes have on their health,” Douglas Kress, Director of Health and Human Services in Somerville, told WBZ-TV. “Memory, learning, their growth development, their cognitive abilities to make decisions, all of those things.”

The Somerville Board of Health voted last week to adopt new rules that will limit access and exposure to e-cigarettes by restricting where they are sold.

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“We are moving vaping materials as well as menthol cigarettes from a regular retail store to a tobacco store which is a 21-plus to enter into the store itself,” said Kress.

(Image credit: CBS News)

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone hopes other towns and cities will soon follow in their footsteps.

“We’re really trying to fight back against the shameful marketing practices of the tobacco industry that are really targeting young people,” said Mayor Curtatone. “I think it will make a big difference, certainly locally.”

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The new restrictions go into place in Somerville on April 1, 2019.

Anna Meiler