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Rush is on for permits to sell e-cigarettes in Boston

E-cigarettes were out for sale at a shop in Hyde Park.
E-cigarettes were out for sale at a shop in Hyde Park.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

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Boston shopkeepers are rushing to sell electronic cigarettes, apparently driven by sales pitches from the nation’s third-largest tobacco company. Lorillard representatives have been offering retailers display samples and suggesting they stock the tobacco-free smokes.

The push comes amid a reignited national debate about the safety of electronic cigarettes, following last month’s announcements from the country’s two other big tobacco companies that they, too, will be jumping into the market.

Nikysha Harding, director of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, said the city has issued 61 permits to sell the battery-operated devices since March, more than five times the number awarded during the same period last year.

“The Lorillard reps have been coming into stores and giving them free samples,” Harding said.

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