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The town of Brookline, MA, is again taking the lead in the fight against tobacco use.
As we all know, smokers succumb to cancer, heart disease, COPD, and a host of other ailments that affect not only the length but the quality of their lives. It is a well-known fact that as their customers die, the industry must recruit new addicts to peddle their poison to. Brookline has taken steps to stem the tide.
At a special town meeting, local officials passed Article 14, which prohibits tobacco sale to anyone born after January 1, 2000. This is the first in the country "Tobacco-Free Generation Policy" created to model a future without tobacco users.
A co-petitioner for the policy, Kate Silbaugh, said that this is a move to incrementally phase out tobacco and nicotine products and allow people time to adapt and find substitutes to quit. According to the CDC, wanna-be quitters comprise two-thirds of current adult smokers.
Brookline was one of the first places in the country to ban smoking in restaurants, bars, and lounges. It then raised the age at which you could purchase from 18 to 19, then 19 to 21 years old. Twenty-one years of age eventually became the national legal age at which someone was allowed to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products.
With the advents of vaping, tobacco companies developed new products to entice and hook future smokers. In response to this, in 2019, Brookline passed a bylaw banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as JUULpods and menthol cigarettes.
Some merchants see this move as an impediment to freedom of choice and a detriment to the already beleaguered COVID-19 economy. But Brookline has been a trail-blazer when it comes to controlling tobacco products and this might be the beginning of another national trend.
Before the law can be enacted, it must be signed into law by the MA Attorney General Maura Healey. And that remains to be seen.
It's encouraging to think that someday there will be no new customers for the tobacco industry and smoking will have become a thing of the past.
According to the CDC, cigarettes are responsible for one out of five deaths in the United States and more than 480,000 deaths annually. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers. In an article in the Washington Post, the authors calculated that if all smoking between 2006 and 2025 ceased, there would be 2.8 million fewer premature deaths, saving the healthcare industry $211 billion.
It's encouraging to imagine that a world without cigarettes may very well be on the horizon.