Advisory Committee: smoking ban, tobacco sales

A regular meeting of the Advisory Committee on Tuesday, April 8, started at 7:30 pm in the southern first-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The committee has been reviewing articles on the warrant for the 2014 annual town meeting to be held in May. Part of the Tuesday meeting, concerned with town regulation of smoking, attracted a few dozen observers–quite a crowd for the Advisory Committee.

Articles 13 and 14 were filed by Nathan Bermel, a student at Brookline High. The first proposes a 400-foot no-smoking zone around the high school; the second proposes to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases in the town from 19 to 21. Although hearings on articles are usually held by subcommittees, chairman Harry Bohrs invited Mr. Bermel to argue the cases. He did so briefly–recounting experiences with similar measures in Needham that he said had cut the smoking rate at its high school in half over about four years. He also mentioned a study that he said found young people who don’t start smoking before age 21 rarely start later.

Janice Kahn moved support for the no-smoking-zone article as submitted. Committee members seemed to dodge and weave around issues; maybe there are still a few smokers on the committee. Sytske Humphrey proposed to amend Article 13, forbidding smoking in the zone only by a “minor or school staff person.” Although there was some discussion of complicated signage and difficult enforcement, a majority of the committee agreed. Bernard Greene proposed to reduce the zone to sidewalks adjacent to the school, but then he withdrew that amendment. Sytske Humphrey proposed to reduce the zone from 400 to 100 feet, but the committee did not agree.

With the amended language on the no-smoking zone, large majorities of the committee voted to endorse both articles on tobacco regulations. The Board of Selectmen will also be reviewing the articles. Should Town Meeting accept the Advisory Committee’s approach, Brookline looks likely to face some practical issues and maybe some legal ones–trying to enforce a no-smoking law that changes with a person’s age and employment.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, April 9, 2014

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