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High Schoolers and Town Meeting Up the Smoking Age, Clear the Air

Two articles proposed by Brookline High School students pass almost unopposed at Annual Town Meeting.

Two of the articles discussed and voted on during last night’s were proposed by students at , who are part of the school’s Peer Leadership program. 

“It’s heartening to me as moderator to have high school students…participate in the civic process,” said Moderator Sandy Gadsby.

Town Meeting voted almost unanimously to increase the age of tobacco sales to 19, and unanimously to impose clean air standards for construction programs. 

Tobacco Sales

Article 12, submitted by Eric Dumas, proposed that the age of tobacco sales be raised to 19 years old. Belmont and Needham have already taken similar measures, and Watertown is considering doing the same.

“When you drive by Brookline High School, what is the first thing you see?” questioned Dumas, who is a pitcher on Brookline High School’s baseball team. He pointed out that a passerby would first notice the groups of kids smoking outside, which he said “reflects poorly on our school.”

Raising the age of tobacco sales to 19 would mean that very few high school students could purchase cigarettes legally in Brookline. This would make it more difficult to obtain access to cigarettes and for younger students to pick up the habit of smoking from older ones.

Furthermore, Dumas argued, those who graduate from high school without using tobacco products are highly unlikely to start smoking as adults. Most people who currently smoke started as teenagers; in contrast, very few started during their adult years. Young people’s brains, studies have shown, are also much more sensitive to addiction than adult brains.

The Advisory Committee voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, as did the Advisory Council on Public Health. After a resounding chorus of “Aye”s from the auditorium, the motion carried by a vote of 169-1.

Clean Construction Standards

Article 26, submitted by Catherine Marris, Jake Wolf-Sorokin, and Pema Doma, dealt with cleaner construction standards for Brookline. The article proposed that the town limit the emissions coming from construction vehicles and enforce the no-idling bylaw more strictly. These actions, the petitioners explained, would reduce carbon emissions as well as the incidence of asthma in young people.

“Growing up, two of the members of my immediate family had asthma,” said Doma. Her early experience made her aware of the limitations this condition causes and inspired her to take action. She also pointed out that while just one out of ten teenagers in Massachusetts have asthma, that rate is one out of four in Roxbury.

“We truly believe that air quality should be equal for everyone,” said Marris.

Doma and Marris are part of the youth organization YMORE (Youth of Massachusetts Organizing for a Reformed Economy), which joins urban and suburban youth in Massachusetts to work towards common goals in society.

Article 26 also carried, with unanimous support from the Town Meeting.

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