As of June 1, 2013, the sale of tobacco products in Brookline will be restricted to those 19 and older. The new law will affect the twenty‐eight tobacco retailers within the town and will make it harder for youths to gain access to tobacco products.
Brookline joins a growing number of Massachusetts communities that have recently taken measures to increase the minimum legal sales age above the federally mandated age of eighteen. In 2005, the Town of Needham was the first Massachusetts community to raise the minimum sales age to purchase tobacco, thereby laying the groundwork for other Massachusetts towns and cities to follow suit, including Belmont, Watertown, Westwood, Walpole, and Arlington.
Data has shown that about ninety percent of current smokers become addicted before the age of eighteen. As a result, the Brookline Department of Public Health has focused its efforts on prevention by placing an added obstacle to deter teenagers from addiction. “A regulation aimed at increasing the purchase age of tobacco to nineteen is good public health policy, as research suggests that those who delay the onset of smoking are less likely to develop a smoking habit,” said Alan Balsam, Brookline’s Director of Public Health and Human Services. As this regulation was originally proposed by members of the Peer Leadership Group at Brookline High School, the ultimate goal is to reduce rates of teen smoking at the high school and to provide a consistent tobacco use policy for all high school seniors. However, Balsam also added that, “This regulation will have a positive impact on the health of our youth, and we hope that in the future, we will see lower rates of morbidity and mortality commonly associated with the use of tobacco products.” Smoking-attributable illnesses cost Massachusetts $4.3 billion in health care each year, representing ten percent of all health care costs in the Commonwealth.