Tobacco: Banned in Boston

Science, technology, and life.
Dec. 15 2008 7:53 AM

Tobacco: Banned in Boston

The health police have crossed another line. Four months ago, they banned new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area of Los Angeles. In that case, they crossed the line from restricting food for kids to restricting it for adults . They also extended the practice of health zoning from liquor to food .

/blogs/humannature/2008/12/15/tobacco_banned_in_boston/jcr:content/body/slate_image
William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Now they've breach another line between paternalism for children and paternalism for adults. The Boston Public Health Commission has just banned the sale of all tobacco products at colleges. Not high schools. Colleges.

Advertisement

Anti-smoking activists are ecstatic. "Boston has taken another step that puts it in the forefront in the United States in protecting people against secondhand smoke," says the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But the Boston regulations don't just restrict smoking. They forbid the sale of "any substance containing tobacco leaf, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipe, tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco and dipping tobacco." Last I heard, there's no secondhand smoke from chewing tobacco. And the tobacco industry is constantly developing new products that confound the equation of tobacco with smoking. That's not because tobacco companies care deeply about public health. It's because secondhand smoke has become a political problem for them—and because, while addicting customers is good business, killing them isn't.

In a press release , the executive director of the Boston commission says the new regulations "will help reduce young people's exposure to tobacco products." Young people? That phrase used to mean minors. Now, apparently, it includes the targets of the new rule: students at "any public or private college, normal school, professional school, scientific or technical institution, university or other institution furnishing a program of higher education."

On what grounds do college students—not to mention students at professional schools—deserve the kind of paternalism previously reserved for minors? The commission offers two reasons. First, "educational institutions in the City of Boston also sell tobacco products to the younger population, which is particularly at risk for becoming smokers." Second, " the sale of tobacco products is also incompatible with the mission of educational institutions which educate the younger population about social, environmental and health risks and harms."

In other words, college students (henceforth known as "the younger population") are so vulnerable to smoking and to deception about the harms of smoking that their access to any tobacco products on campus must be legally forbidden.

It's true that laws across the United States set the legal drinking age at 21. But those laws are based on the argument that alcohol makes people aged 18 to 20 drive dangerously . Where's the evidence that chewing tobacco makes these people drive dangerously?

To repeat: I detest smoking. But if there's no secondhand smoke and no secondhand driving effects, what are the grounds for telling a 20-year-old college student—let alone a 25-year-old professional-school student—that tobacco is off-limits? And if that kind of paternalism can be extended so easily from minors to 25-year-olds, who's next?

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.