AP NEWS: Court Upholds Town’s Generational Tobacco Ban

The decision would create two sets of adults: one that can buy cigarettes and one that can’t.

March 15, 2024

Brookline, Massachusetts, a town of about 60,000 outside of Boston, adopted a bylaw in 2020 that bans the sale of tobacco to anyone born in the 21st century. The bylaw is the first of its kind in the country and was upheld by the state’s highest court last week, reported the Associated Press.

Following the court’s decision, the bylaw has now opened the door for other communities to adopt similar bans if they choose to do so, AP News said.

AP reported that critics of the Brookline law, including convenience store owners, argued that the Brookline law conflicts with a 2018 state law that allows those over the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products—and would establish two sets of adults, one that can buy cigarettes and one that can’t.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sided with Brookline, noting that cities and towns “have a lengthy history of regulating tobacco products.”

“Importantly, state laws and local ordinances and bylaws can and often do exist side by side,” the court added. “This is particularly true of local ordinances and bylaws.”

Peter Brennan, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA), told AP News the group is looking into possibly appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers of Massachusetts Association, also criticized the ruling, saying it could lead to a hodgepodge of rules.

In 2022, New Zealand passed a similar law intended to impose a lifetime ban on young people buying cigarettes by mandating that tobacco can’t ever be sold to anybody born on or after Jan. 1, 2009. The country’s new prime minister has said he plans to repeal the law.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year proposed raising the legal age that people in England can buy cigarettes by one year, every year until it is eventually illegal for the whole population.