Berkshire boards of health have long been on the front lines in the fight against smoking, and the regulations under consideration by the Pittsfield Board of Health would, if enacted, continue this approach. With the dangers of smoking increasingly well-established, residents should expect nothing less than this kind of aggressive approach.
The board is considering a city-wide cap on the number of licenses to sell tobacco products. That number is now 48, and it could be capped there by allowing licenses to be transferred but creating no new licenses. A better idea, however, would be to follow the lead of 23 other state communities and discontinue licenses when they are vacated by a store that goes out of business or surrenders its license, in that fashion gradually reducing licenses from the current 48. Current retailers can continue to sell cigarettes, but no retailers would be added to the list.
North Adams and Great Barrington have banned smoking in parks and Pittsfield should do the same. That would require the city to clearly define what constitutes a park, as Tri-Town Health Public Health Director James Wilusz said at last Thursday’s meeting, but once accomplished, a website map could be drawn up to inform residents of where the new regulations apply. A ban on low-priced or flavored cigars that tobacco manufacturers use to hook young people on tobacco and create new customer-addicts should also be enacted in Pittsfield.
Bans and restrictions on tobacco are not nanny-state regulations as critics claim but wise methods of reducing health care costs for everyone. Those increasingly high costs are driven in part by the expense of treating cancer, emphysema and heart disease, all of which are directly linked to smoking and second-hand smoke. These regulations can also spare people from years of agony leading almost inevitably to death. There is help in the county for those who want to kick the habit. Strict rules on smoking may persuade some not to start.