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Brookline nicotine bylaw hopes to create a “smoke-free generation”

Photo by Reza Mehrad/Unsplash

By Chris Modica

Boston University News Service

The future of youth and adolescent health in Brookline looks bright, as a bylaw meant to curb youth nicotine addiction was enacted in November 2021. Over a year later, the policy has grown widely enforced.

Katherine Silbaugh, a Law Professor at Boston University, cosponsored the bylaw for Brookline that limited the sale of all products containing nicotine to those with birth dates before January 1, 2001, as opposed to all patrons 21 years of age or older. 

Peter Patel, owner of TJ’s Convenience Store in Brookline, has noticed a decrease in his sales of nicotine products, but recognizes the benefits the law has to college students.

“I think for the students, it is good, but for the business, it has not been good,” Patel said. “I have had a 20% decrease [in nicotine sales] since this was enacted.”

Patel added that the law might be more effective if it were statewide or even countywide. The law seems to strictly impact Brookline businesses, as patrons aged 21 years and older can walk a short distance to Allston or Boston to purchase these products.

Boston University student Sam Ashton understands the difficulty it may present for businesses, while also understanding the pros and cons of the customer’s well being.

“There’s evidence to show banning nicotine is beneficial to society, especially concerning its effects on younger users,” Ashton said. “However, I could also understand why people would be upset. Someone born on  January 1, 2001 would probably feel hard done by being one day away from being able to purchase nicotine.” 

The way the law is structured, the same individual could trek a small distance to purchase the products. Ashton said that, because of this, this law creates more discouragement around nicotine than it does a genuine foolproof solution.

“It is only in Brookline that we cannot sell [these products],” Patel said. He feels as though Brookline businesses have been placed at a disadvantage in the wake of the law. 

The law comes at a good time and could possibly set the tone for a smoke-free generation. This, according to BU Today, is Professor Silbaugh’s ultimate goal. 

According to TobaccoFreeKids, over two million children used e-cigarettes in 2022. This is specifically referencing individuals under the age of 18, three years younger than the legal age, suggesting widespread sale of these products to underaged customers. 

Silbaugh noted to BU Today that she has received calls from lawmakers in various towns of Massachusetts. In addition, she said the plan originally was going to limit the sale of products to all people under age 40, but decided to roll it back to anyone who would turn of age after the law became official. 

“Brookline [is] the first place to actually create a birth-date qualification for purchasing tobacco. We’ve put in place something that could actually create a tobacco-free generation,” Silbaugh said to BU Today. 

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