Needham’s anti-smoking legacy grows

Needham in 2005 raised the smoking age to 21, establishing a public policy on teen smoking that appears to be gaining momentum in Massachusetts and across the nation.

Salem became the latest convert on Thursday when the Witch City’s Board of Health voted 3-2 to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21. Seven other Massachusetts communities and New York City adopted similar measures in 2013. And now several states, including New Jersey, are considering following suit, although similar statewide initiatives have failed in Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

 

The so-called Tobacco 21 laws follow the same strategy used by the federal government in 1984, when it required states to raise the minimum drinking age to 21 in order to keep receiving highway funds. Research has shown that many people take their first drink or smoke their first cigarette in their teens, and that reducing access to liquor or cigarettes during that critical time period can curb addictions and save lives.

Prior to Thursday’s vote by the Salem Board of Health, opponents of raising the minimum smoking age said the measure was an attack on personal freedom and argued that it would be ineffective because teens would just go to neighboring towns to buy their cigarettes.

But medical researchers suggest the data gathered so far indicate raising the smoking age is an effective deterrent to smoking. They say 80 percent of adult smokers start smoking regularly before they turn 20 and 90 percent of the people who purchase cigarettes for minors are under 21.

They also point to the evidence from Needham. When Needham adopted its Tobacco 21 law in 2005, the town had a smoking rate among high school students of 12.9 percent; the rate in surrounding communities was 14.9 percent. By 2010, the rate in Needham had fallen to 6.7 percent, while the rate in surrounding communities dropped to 12.4 percent.

“The percentage decline in Needham was nearly triple that of its neighbors — contradicting the hypothesis that young people will simply shift their purchases to surrounding towns,” according to an article earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Jonathan Philip Winickoff of Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the coauthors of the New England Journal of Medicine article, said Needham’s experience is what is changing public policy on smoking. “It was the shot heard round the world,” he told the Needham Times.

BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

“Scandal grips Beacon Hill, voters yawn.” That could be the headline for a new Globe poll showing 61 percent of likely Massachusetts voters were neither shocked nor at all surprised by the Probation Department scandal and convictions.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A new effort to recall Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan is under way but city officials say they don’t have the estimated $60,000 in the election budget to hold the recall vote.

Globe columnist Joanna Weiss drops in on Lawrence’s turnaround mayor, Dan Rivera.

Rehoboth Town Meeting approves steep budget cuts that avoid municipal layoffs.

CASINOS

The state gaming commission votes 4-0 to waive the surrounding community rights of Boston, CommonWealth reports.  The vote means the commission has decided to postpone mitigation talks between Wynn Resorts and Boston; the commission could impose a surrounding community terms on Wynn if Wynn wins the eastern Massachusetts casino license.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

President Obama greenlights air strikes in Iraq, Time reports.

The Weekly Standard says US Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the Democrats’ 21st century version of Barry Goldwater, pushing the party far left like the late Arizona senator did to the GOP in the opposite direction half a century ago.

On the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation, former Globe reporter John Aloysius Farrell, now writing for US News & World Report, has a lengthy look back at the historic and historically petty presidency Meanwhile, Patrick Buchanan who served as a special assistant to Nixon, says that liberals were to blame for his fall.

ELECTIONS

Frank Phillips offers last-minute tips for the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates with the September 9 primary only a month away.

His poll numbers may be low, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick says his campaign is in a good position, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Steve Grossman believes that casinos will provide more positives than negatives.

US Sen. John Walsh, a Democrat from Montana, decides to end his campaign for reelection  in the wake of allegations that he plagiarized a paper he wrote at the US Army War College, the Billings Gazette reports FiveThirtyEight notes that, even before Walsh’s exit, Democrats were facing a steep uphill climb in Montana , and Walsh’s exit makes it worse.

The New York Times Magazine positions Sen. Rand Paul as the politician who could make libertarianism mainstream — if the Republican establishment doesn’t kneecap him first. New York magazine argues that the story’s premise, that libertarians hold the key to attracting young voters to the GOP, is built on biased polling data.

Retired General Stanley McCrystal’s endorsement of former Marine Seth Moulton,in the Democratic primary race against US Rep. John Tierney prompts speculation that the former Afghanistan commander may jump into politics.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Market Basket begins reducing the hours of part-time workers, but top officials at the supermarket chain say the employees are not being laid off, the Lowell Sun reports.

Low-wage workers at Logan Airport are looking to unionize.

Greater Boston weighs in on the viral sensation of the Ice Bucket Challenge, an Internet stunt to raise money and awareness for ALS, which some experts say trivializes the disease at the expense of self-aggrandizement.  

EDUCATION

Salem secured $120,000 from the state to extend the school day at the Collins Middle School by 45 minutes, but the money may have to be returned if the teachers union continues to balk at accepting a $4,000 annual stipend for the work, the Salem News reports.

Attorney General Martha Coakley sues former Westfield State president Evan Dobelle for alleged misuse of university credit cards, the Associated Press reports .

A sexual assault allegation has disrupted the calm at the elite St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.

HEALTH CARE

Steward Health Care is refusing to turn over to state officials a copy of its consolidated financial statements. The officials say they may assess fines on the health care company, CommonWealth reports. Paul Levy suggests the Attorney General get the records under an agreement the company signed in 2010.

Walmart is pushing beyond acute care clinics, and opening full-blown primary care medical facilities in its stores. The initial rollout is focusing on rural areas.  

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A video survey by UMass Dartmouth marine scientists has determined the scallop population on Georges Bank has increased by 32 percent since 2012, a jump they say could sustain the scallop fishing industry for decades when the juvenile shellfish reach maturity.

Randolph officials are considering a plan to build a new water treatment plant to replace the aging facility that serves them and two other towns. The officials say a new plant will be cheaper than joining the MWRA system.

Jim O’Sullivan looks at a coalition of environmental groups that is trying to assert some muscle in state politics.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Massachusetts Parole Board votes to release two men who were convicted as juveniles, WBUR reports.

MEDIA/ARTS

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Cutbacks in the media have left coverage of nonprofits “defanged,” with little critical reporting of foundations that would hold them accountable, says an oped in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Star Wars creator George Lucas makes a very generous donation to Stockbridge’s Norman Rockwell Museum.