Generational Ban Laws Threaten the Future of Some Local Tobacconists


New laws on the books in Massachusetts are threatening the future of some historic local tobacconist businesses.

Following a landmark decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, several Greater Boston towns are adopting something known as a generational tobacco ban. 

As reported by Cigar Aficionado, the legislative actions are setting a precedent that could influence broader state and national tobacco regulations. Often with local governments, one board of councilpersons get their ideas from another – a monkey-see, monkey-do scenario.

In March 2023, the court upheld a bylaw in the Boston suburb of Brookline that prohibited the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in the 21st century. The ruling catalyzed similar policies across neighboring towns, each with the goal of  a “Nicotine-Free Generation.” 

Other towns in Massachusetts like Stoneham, Wakefield and Melrose have quickly enacted or are considering similar bans – all set to take effect by January 2025.

Brookline’s initial move to pass such a ban in 2020 was groundbreaking. Designed to prevent anyone born after Jan. 1, 2000, from purchasing tobacco products during their lifetimes, the law survived several legal challenges. 

The cases culminated in the recent Supreme Judicial Court decision. It not only affirmed Brookline’s ban but also encouraged other municipalities to pursue analogous legislation.

The rapid adoption of these bans across the region highlights a community-driven approach to public health and tobacco control, often led by local health boards with substantial autonomous authority. 

The potential implications of the generational tobacco bans are extensive. For instance, they could challenge the viability of local tobacconist shops, some of which have been in business for more than a century. 

The generational bans also might restrict young adults’ ability to make choices regarding tobacco consumption, sparking debates about personal freedom and public health.

Paul Macdonald, Jr., owner of Leavitt & Peirce, expressed concern over the direction of the tobacco bans. 

“Do I think that the ‘powers to be’ have gone too far….yes,” the second-generation owner told Cigar Aficionado. “Basically, young people are being told how to live their lives and as young adults they cannot decide for themselves.”

Meanwhile, Glynn Loope from the Premium Cigar Association notes that while some states like Virginia and South Carolina prevent local governments from enacting stricter tobacco laws than those of the state, Massachusetts’ situation could prompt other states to reconsider their positions on local authority concerning tobacco control.

Image: Envato

Samantha Lile Samantha Lile is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 3 years. She is also a freelance writer and journalist who contributes to a variety of web publications from her home office in the heart of the Ozarks.