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Court upholds Brookline ordinance that will forever keep people born after Jan. 1, 2000 from buying cigarettes in the town

The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a Brookline ordinance that permanently bars the sale of cigarettes to anybody born in the 21st century.

The owners of several gas stations and convenience stores in Brookline had sued over the ordinance, passed by Town Meeting in 2020, saying it conflicted with the state's own tobacco law, which lets anybody buy tobacco products once they reach 21, and that it discriminated against their customers - by denying them the right to do something they could do in other parts of the state.

The state's highest court concluded that the ordinance did not conflict with that law, in part because it has a clause that "affirms the authority of local communities to limit
and to ban the sale of tobacco products within their municipalities," said the law is well within the traditional purview of communities to enact public-health measures stronger than those called for by the state legislature and

The court noted that in earlier decisions, it had upheld local ordinances banning cigarette vending machines and requiring smoke-free areas in restaurants, neither of which were called for in state law at the time.

That the bylaw goes further does not render it incompatible with the State statute; instead, the bylaw (like those in [the earlier cases]) augments the State statute by further limiting access to tobacco products to persons under the age of twenty-one.

The court also dismissed the retailers' argument that the law denied their customers' rights to equal protection, saying smokers are not a "'discrete and insular minority" that the framers of the state constitution were aiming to protect - any more than smoking is a constitutionally protected activity:

To the contrary, many of those within group two -- the class of persons born on or after January 1, 2000 -- can vote, including in favor of a new tobacco bylaw if they wish.

And while there is a group of residents who cannot vote, they are minors and so "traditionally have been subject to protections society deems appropriate for our children," the court said.

The court concluded:

The retailers contend that the birthdate cutoff of January 1, 2000, is arbitrary and thus not rationally related to the town's legitimate interest. We disagree. Line drawing –- a legislative necessity -- does not, without more, make a law unconstitutional. ... The bylaw's birthdate classification, starting in the year 2000, is rationally related to the town's legitimate interest in mitigating tobacco use overall and in particular by minors. Few individuals in group two could purchase tobacco products prior to the bylaw's enactment. Grouping this subset of young adults with minors, who could not purchase tobacco products under the preexisting law, rationally relates to curbing minors' use of tobacco products because, inter alia, the young adults are closer in age to minors. This, in turn, the town could conclude rationally, might limit access to tobacco products by younger persons. Also, these young adults within group two, because they only recently were able to purchase tobacco products, might not have yet formed addictive habits. The bylaw also is a rational alternative to an immediate and outright ban on sales of all tobacco products, preserving in- town sales to those in group one who may already suffer from addiction. And it provides sellers time to adjust to revenue losses that stem from shrinking tobacco product sales. For these reasons, the bylaw does not violate the guarantees of equal protection.

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Comments

My condolonces to young Brookliners who want to look stupid, smell bad, and ruin their health.

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Voting closed 21

Onward to the Supreme Court.

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Now do it for marijuana. (In smoked forms.)

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Ditto.

For any smoked substance.

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And next ban rotisserie chicken too. Better be safe than be exposed to smoke and carcinogens

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Well, Brookline did ban trans fats.

But while I think they’re a horrible substance that should be illegal, it needs to happen at the federal or at least state level. The town ban is entirely ineffective.

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No this is over reaching. We have state laws for this. Brookline doesn't like it? Then they can petition the legislature to fix the law. Furthermore, all this is doing is sending people born after 1/1/2000 to other cities and towns to buy smokes.. so what good is this if other towns allow it?

I agree with the gas stations... sadly. You can't just blanket a date and say no one can do this. Today is 3/8/2024. Someone born yesterday in the year 2000 would be 24 years of age now. You might have an argument around age 21.. but 24.. you're adult. Let adults make their own choices, even if they are bad ones.

And this goes further into very over reaching territory as the person approaches 30. Again, they are adult, let the adults make their own decision. Not some town..*eye roll*

And again, I say this every time this comes up. If smoking is so bad for us, why doesn't our gov't just ban the sale of them all together? Or rather, why didn't the town of Brookline do this instead?

Oh right Nanny town knows best....

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I do not want to inhale smoker’s toxic smoke.

So laws that support my decision get my approval.

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Brookline is doing what the fed government should be doing but isn’t.

Good on Brookline for taking action and not just sitting around waiting.

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Let adults make their own choices, even if they are bad ones.

The adults made a choice...to stop selling cigarettes in their town eventually. You say "some town" did it, but "some town" is just run by adults and Brookline, more than most, creates an effective legislature out of a huge proportion of their town as Town Members to make these decisions. "Some Town" isn't some single mastermind or faceless entity. It's just adults making their own choices. Hell, some of them might even smoke.

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I agree insofar as I think Brookline should just ban the sale of cigarettes altogether.

Your grandfathered in if you’re born before X date is stupid. Just give the gas stations in town until such and such a date to stop selling them altogether.

Then it’s really not any different than a “dry county” that exists elsewhere.

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I have to agree. If Brookline wants to ban the sale of all tobacco in their city, cool, that's their right and makes sense. Using a random age cut off to essentially slow-roll a ban over the next 20-50 years makes zero sense.

Methinks the city WANTS to do a blanket ban but knows it'll get pushback from older residents who smoke and more legal fighting from those who sell. They're going to be patient and allow the ban to age itself into place.

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Good. No smoking if you don't know middle school algebra

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Such a weird discriminatory law. 23 years old and cant buy smokes but if you're 25 years old you can? What does this *specifically discriminatory* aspect of the law accomplish that a full ban or full accss can't? Seems so pointless other than another routine "F you" to young people. "It's for your owm good!"-types can shove it

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legal adults of (as of now) 23 years of age have to hang around outside of any store that sells cigarettes and ask an older person to go in and buy smokes for them.
Ahhh, youth.

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Anything that exudes from you and intrudes on others should be outlawed, or at least relegated to some sort of plexiglass smoking pen like they had (maybe still have) in the Las Vegas airport.

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They are ADULTS. Why do we have so many laws that treat young adults like children?

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The way Brookline is thinking is that if they ban tobacco purchases by the year, rolling it back a decade each year, they can ban smoking completely. Say next year you ban everyone born in 1990 from purchasing cigarettes, then 1980, 1970 and so on until everyone is banned.

What Brookline doesn't realize is that Boston and Newton surrounds this exclave, and those 2000-born Brookline residents can easily go over the town line and buy cigarettes. Also, the tax revenue from cigarettes ($3.51 MA excise + $1.01 federal excise) would also fund Brookline health programs, although these days, the $1B in cigarette tax revenue doesn't exactly reach the health sections other than the health of the general fund.

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Also, the tax revenue from cigarettes ($3.51 MA excise + $1.01 federal excise) would also fund Brookline health programs

In places where a lot fewer people smoke, they require a lot less money in healthcare because of all of the extra cost that caring for the damage of smoking creates.

Their results suggest that a 10% relative reduction in smoking prevalence between a state and the national average in one year was followed by an average $6.3 billion reduction (in 2012 dollars) in health care expenditure the following year. Consistent with this finding, the states with the most rigorous tobacco control policies had a much lower smoking prevalence and lower health care expenditures than states that did not have these policies.

( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4862676/ )

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And we should not be arguing that something bad should be legal because we need its tax revenue. There’s plenty of other taxes that can pick up the slack.

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If they still want to buy smokes.

Until Boston and Newton follow Brookline’s lead.

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