Smoking Snuffed Out
Op-Heads: a virtual chat on the issues that matter
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Click on the video above to watch SPH’s Michael Siegel (left) and Harold Cox discuss Boston’s new ban on tobacco sales in drug stores and college campuses. Click here to watch the short version. Click here to watch the full version.
Just 20 years ago, Boston smokers could light up almost anywhere — in restaurants, at Fenway Park, even in hospitals. But the city’s tobacco-friendly real estate was already dwindling, and by 2003, Boston had banned smoking in all indoor workplaces. This week, the city went a step further, officially prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies and on college campuses. The measure, which also stamps out smoking in hotel rooms and forbids any new hookah or cigar bars in the city, was passed by the Boston Public Health Commission in December. Businesses were given 60 days to comply.
Supporters of the new restrictions on pharmacies and campus convenience stores, such as Harold Cox, School of Public Health associate dean of public health practice and a member of the commission, say limiting the availability of cigarettes will help discourage people from picking up the habit and will prod those already hooked to quit.
But the new restrictions also have many critics, among them Michael Siegel, an SPH professor of social and behavioral sciences. Siegel has been an ardent supporter of making indoor workplaces smoke-free (he supports the measure’s anti-hookah and cigar bar provisions). But on his blog and Web site, he questions the public health rationale behind the bans on pharmacy and campus tobacco sales.
“We apparently don’t have a problem with young people being exposed to products that will make them sick, except on the rare occasion that they are in a pharmacy,” he writes. “When they go to a grocery store, we don’t care if they are exposed to products that make them sick. When they are outside of a college campus, we don’t care if they are exposed to products that make them sick.”
Shortly after the public health commission announced the pending restrictions, Siegel told a Boston Globe reporter that the smokers would simply take their business elsewhere. “This policy is not going to save any lives,” he said.
With the ban now in place, BU Today asked Cox and Siegel to sit down and talk about getting tough with tobacco control.
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Robin Berghaus contributed to this piece.