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Brookline lights a fuse, of sorts, with age-targeted tobacco ban

Packs of cigarettes on a shelf in a grocery store in Brooklyn, N.Y.Michael M. Santiago/Getty

Town’s overregulation would be bad policy, set thorny precedent

The recent front-page article “A test for Brookline’s tobacco rule: Challenge to ban on sales to anyone born in 21st century heard by Mass. high court” (Nov. 25) exposed an important debate about the legality of the town’s overregulation of legal tobacco products.

The state Supreme Judicial Court is rightfully weighing this absurd generational ban and must consider its impact on civil liberties. Should it be allowed to stand, it would clear the way for cities and towns to slap random age-based prohibitions on lottery purchases, alcohol, cannabis, sugary treats, or anything else deemed dangerous by the so-called powers that be.


It is the height of hypocrisy, though, that the same communities seeking to eventually block adults for life from buying legal tobacco products — including cigars, chewing tobacco, and nicotine pouches — are simultaneously cashing in on combustible cannabis; fizzy, booze-filled “alcopops”; and THC-infused “Stoner Patch” gummies.

As the SJC considers Brookline’s bylaw banning anyone born after Jan. 1, 2000, from ever buying tobacco products, New Zealand has scrapped its first-in-the-world generational tobacco ban. Why? Because the government is realizing that prohibition does not work.

People who want to use tobacco will turn to the illicit market to get their chosen products. It’s been proved time and again, most notably with alcohol and marijuana, that it is best to keep legal adult products in regulated, licensed environments. Tobacco is no different.

Peter Brennan

Executive director

New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association


This smacks of prohibition — and tyranny

Proponents of Brookline’s plan to prohibit the sale of tobacco to anyone born after Jan. 1, 2000 — eventually, therefore, prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone — say the plan is intended to reduce youth smoking (“A test for Brookline’s tobacco rule”). Underage smoking, however, has declined steadily in the last 25 years. What Brookline really seems to want is to prohibit adults from purchasing tobacco. It angers antismoking advocates that after years of restrictions, taxes, and stigmatization, many adults continue to enjoy tobacco.


The renowned observer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, warned that tyranny in small ways is more insidious than tyranny in larger ways. It affects more people more often and drains them of their will. Brookline’s plan is a stark example of such tyranny.

Stephen Helfer


Even a Philip Morris-launched foundation sees the wisdom of ending smoking

Re “Brookline’s phased cigarette ban is unwise, irrational, and deeply patronizing” by Jeff Jacoby (Ideas, Dec. 3): In 2017, the tobacco company Philip Morris International pledged $960 million over 12 years to establish the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. The central mission of the foundation, which last month said it would no longer accept funding from the nicotine industry, is “to end smoking in this generation,” perhaps by ending the sales of combustible cigarettes worldwide by about 2040. Within this framework, the visionary action in Brookline to phase out tobacco sales to anyone born after 1999 is a logical and major step forward to help the foundation achieve this important goal and thereby improve public health globally.

Dr. John Maa

San Francisco

The writer is a former president of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society.