The high cost of smoking

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em is a timeworn phrase not heard much these days. Tobacco use has fallen out of style for the most part.

But one time-honored tradition that has held on is the ritual lighting of cigars in celebratory times. Babies, bachelor parties, Boston Celtic victories, and the like always resulted in flaming up a stogie, if only for a couple puffs.

But one hard and fast rule across the state these days is no tobacco use is tolerated on public property, especially schools where the lungs and mouths of youth are fervently protected from the effects of carcinogens contained in cigars, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco.

When a band of seven graduating Saugus High School seniors lit up the traditional cigar after the pomp and circumstance, school officials brought the hammer down on them. The pictures of the smokers showed up not only on social media but in local news outlets as well. That, said the superintendent, forced their hand.

“You’re caught,” Saugus Superintendent David DeRuosi said. “It was reported, it came out, school officials had to take action.”

All seven were prohibited from playing in post-season athletic games, six lacrosse team members including four captains and a baseball player. The harsh punishment caught students and parents by surprise and has reverberated not only around the state but across the country.

“Honestly, I started crying,” Kevin Cucuzza, one of the lacrosse players who was suspended, said. “We worked so hard all season to get to this point to make the tournament, and it came as a shock.”

“It is a harmless token of celebration,” one Saugus resident wrote in a Letter to the Editor of the Saugus Advertiser. “Hopefully we can all smoke a cigar soon when Saugus says bye bye to a few spiritless people in this town.”

School officials expressed their sympathy that the tradition had been allowed to go on so long but were steadfast that it broke the rules of both the district as well as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association about tobacco use. The school district’s policy says explicitly that anyone caught violating the rules against drugs, alcohol, and tobacco “will be suspended for two weeks of a season in which the student is a participant” for a first offense.

“We are all responsible to some degree and fingers cannot be pointed at just one individual,” School Committee member Elizabeth Marchese said in an emailed statement to the  Advertiser. “For years, the smoking of the traditional ‘cigar’ has been allowed and overlooked at graduation. By our tacit allowance, we as a whole have sent mixed messages to our students that there will be no consequence. That was wrong and unfair.”

Keller@Large, the unofficial state scold, says there’s other lessons to be learned here that Saugus administrators overlooked.

“Rules are broken all the time for reasons of ceremony, tradition, and even fun, like fireworks on the beach on the Fourth of July or the office pool during March Madness,” he says. “Instead of showing understanding and letting these kids off with a warning, Saugus is modeling rigidity and misplaced priorities. I give this lesson plan an ‘F.’”

There was another lesson they learned: You can’t win games shorthanded. Saugus lost 17-3 to Pentucket and was eliminated from the Division 3 tournament. No victory cigars were lit.



House Speaker Robert DeLeo slammed a decision by Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley to sentence a convicted heroin dealer to probation. He said he looks forward to a “timely report by the SJC on the judge’s conduct,” but it’s not clear the court is reviewing the case. (Boston Herald) Former Supreme Judicial Court justice Robert Cordy, in a Herald op-ed, says public criticism of Feeley’s sentence is a healthy part of democracy, but “efforts by responsible public officials to transform that criticism into a crusade for impeachment is as misguided as it can be.”

Gov. Charlie Baker delivered a speech to the BIO International Convention as lawmakers scrambled to finish work on a $460 million life sciences bond bill. (State House News)

Assistant district attorneys in Massachusetts continue to be among the lowest-paid lawyers in the state and country despite an influx of funds designed to boost salary and retain young prosecutors. (Wicked Local)


Norfolk district attorney and Quincy resident Michael Morrissey testified at a Boston City Council budget hearing, slamming plans to rebuild Long Island Bridge, which was fed by Quincy streets and provided the only roadway connection to Boston-owned Long Island. (Boston Herald)

Boston officials will go before the Quincy Conservation Committee Wednesday seeking a permit to rebuild the controversial Long Island Bridge. (Patriot Ledger)

The Natick School Committee has suspended its “Public Speak” portion of meetings after a judge ruled in a lawsuit against the panel that they could not enforce policies they put in place restricting speech of commenters. (MetroWest Daily News)


Former President Bill Clinton admitted his irritable and defensive response to questions about Monica Lewinsky recently “wasn’t my finest hour.” (New York Times)


Boston Mayor Marty Walsh explains why he’s backing Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim for secretary of state over incumbent William Galvin. (CommonWealth)

At a debate among Democrats running in the Third Congressional District race, some differences finally emerge on foreign policy. (Lowell Sun)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez and state Sen. Eric Lesser are both holding back on an endorsement of Deval Patrick for president, which seems pretty reasonable since it’s not clear he’s even running. Gonzalez served as Patrick’s budget chief when he was governor and Lesser volunteered on his 2006 campaign. (Boston Herald)

Most state lawmakers face no opposition in the September primary or November general election. (Boston Globe)

Michael Graham slams Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez’s support for huge transit expansion, branding him a “tax-hiking train-iac.” (Boston Herald)


Panelists at a forum on the state’s film tax credit disclose that Netflix and Showtime are planning to shoot two major series in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

Facebook gave access to personal data to a Chinese company that was flagged by US intelligence agencies as a national security threat. (New York Times)

Advanced manufacturing in Massachusetts is contributing to strong growth in production output and new jobs in the sector. (Boston Globe)

Attorney General Maura Healey warned or fined 21 companies for not complying with a 2010 that bans most employers from asking about criminal histories on an initial job application. (Boston Globe)

The Florida company that owns Planet Hollywood and the Earl of Sandwich brand has acquired Northborough-based Bertucci’s out of bankruptcy for approximately $20 million. (Boston Globe)

Patrick Kilbride of the US Chamber of Commerce calls for stronger intellectual property protections to ensure biotech keeps growing in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country. (CommonWealth)

Two former trustees of the Berkshire Museum who opposed the institution’s sale of artwork say they think better fundraising could have avoided the need to sell the paintings. (Berkshire Eagle)


Kai Leigh Harriott, who was paralyzed by gunfire in Dorchester when she was 3, is graduating from high school and charging forward toward college with a positive attitude. (Boston Globe)

Some female students in Worcester are pushing for a change in the school dress code which currently limits how short shorts or skirts can be. The code says clothing cannot be shorter than the tips of  a student’s fingers with her arms at her side. One student complained that it is hard to find shorts that comply with that requirement. (Telegram & Gazette)

U.S. News & World Report offers the list of most expensive private medical schools, with four New England universities in the top 10 including Dartmouth (4th), Brown (7th), Harvard (8th), and Tufts (9th). None of the region’s schools made the top 10 in least expensive.


Teen births continue to decline in Massachusetts, but remain high in such cities as Lawrence, Haverhill, and Lynn. An Eagle-Tribune editorial hails the continued decline in teen births in Massachusetts, but raises concerns about limits on women’s health funding in Washington and foot-dragging on Beacon Hill on sex education in schools.


The state has reached a settlement with the owner of Windstar Farms in the Forestdale section of Sandwich requiring the owner to restore the 223-acre property and return it to its intended use for farming and other agricultural purposes. (Cape Cod Times)


It’s still early in the process, but Worcester County is emerging as marijuana central in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

A California company has bought the property and will front the start-up costs as well as construct the building for a medical marijuana grow facility in Holliston. (MetroWest Daily News)

Voters at West Bridgewater Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved a sweeping ban on recreational marijuana sales, cultivation, and manufacturing. (The Enterprise)


Seven more State Police troopers are now believed to have potentially engaged in the theft of overtime pay, bringing the total number of officers under investigation to 40. (Boston Globe)

Haverhill Police Chief Alan DeNaro said he plans to launch a gang unit and bring the social services organization UTEC to town to deal with gang violence, but he warns that progress will take time. (Eagle-Tribune)

Wayne Chapman, the convicted child rapist who was due to be released from civil commitment, was arrested on new lewdness charges related to actions on Sunday and Monday at MCI-Shirley, where he has been held. (Boston Herald)


Hilary Sargent, the former employee who has accused Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory of sending her an inappropriate text, warned Globe owner John Henry about sexual harassment at the newspaper, according to a court filing. In the filing, Sargent said she couldn’t recall when McGrory allegedly sent her the text, but acknowledged it may have happened when she wasn’t working at the Globe. (CommonWealth)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial says a US newsprint tariff on Canadian suppliers is likely to drive up costs for newspapers like the Eagle and force cuts elsewhere in their budgets.

Gerard Baker was replaced as editor of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal amid unrest in the newsroom and at least a dozen departures of reporters over his perceived soft approach to covering President Trump. (New York Times)