It's hard not to feel bad for smokers these days.
You'll see them huddled on loading docks, in cold and forlorn back doorways, off in the distance and away from the crowds, puffing away in furtive silence. It used to be that the Marlboro Man was the cool guy to be. Not any more.
The countless anti-smoking regulations, the dethroning of the once powerful tobacco companies, the huge taxes on cigarette packs, the stark ads depicting dying lung cancer victims, and the social shunning have all done their job. Over the past 50 years, the percentage of Americans who smoke has dropped from about 42 percent to 19 percent, and it continues its downward trend, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
That's all good of course. But like an abandoned cigarette butt smoldering on the sidewalk, apparently some people feel the few remaining smokers, and the people who sell them their smokes, still need to be stomped on and crushed out.
Among them is the City of Newburyport, which is following the lead of the state Department of Health in proposing local rules that will prohibit Newburyport stores from selling tobacco products to adults between the age of 18 and 21, and make it harder for businesses that sell tobacco to transfer their licenses to new owners.
In effect, the regulations will prevent young adults from doing something that is perfectly legal, and it punishes local businesses for selling a legal product.
This latest round of anti-smoking initiatives is taking things a bit too far, in our opinion. It strips young adults of a legal right to buy cigarettes in this city. It is also anti-small business. There are 17 stores throughout the city that count on cigarette sales to help meet their bottom line. It is grossly unfair to punish them for taking part in legal commerce.