SCHOOL is out and, as students tumble from St. Lawrence High
School here into a numbing snowstorm, the heat is on.
Gangs of students congregate, taking note of several police
cruisers nearby. Suddenly, from an unmarked patrol car, Officer
Edward Clancy swoops upon the scene and plucks a smoldering
cigarette butt from the snow at the feet of a ninth grader. One
more under-age youth is nabbed in the no-smoke dragnet in Burbank,
Burbank is one of scores of communities across the country to
crack down on teenage smoking.
For decades, local governments relied solely on state laws to
curb tobacco use among minors, but now they are formulating their
own ordinances - and sometimes using local police to enforce them.
The trend is the latest in a broad antismoking campaign to sweep
the United States, which has included bans or restrictions on
smoking in restaurants, work places, and other public buildings.
In the Chicago area, 22 suburbs have enacted laws to prevent
retailers from selling tobacco products to minors or to bar
outright the possession of cigarettes by people under age 18. Three
more towns are considering a crackdown.
"These kinds of laws are popping up in cities and towns all over
the country," says Elizabeth Bridgers, spokeswoman for the American
Cancer Society. The tobacco industry, even with its substantial war
chest and political leverage, would find it hard to quash an
opposition involving thousands of cities and towns, she says.
Instead, the tobacco industry is combatting such grass-roots
efforts at the state level. It has allied with retailers and, in 19
states, has successfully promoted laws that bar localities from
enacting anti-tobacco measures that vary from state law.
State legislation is awaiting gubernatorial signatures in
Indiana and Utah and is gaining support of lawmakers in 12 other
states, says Peter Fisher of the Coalition on Smoking or Health in
Washington, an antismoking group. The revised laws modify
restrictions on retailing, usually to the advantage of cigarette
makers, he says.
The tobacco industry says it opposes smoking by minors and
denies assertions it targets much of its $6 billion annual
advertising and promotion budget toward teenagers. The industry has
pushed for state laws preempting local antismoking ordinances in an
effort to prevent the emergence of conflicting regulations from one
town to another. Such a patchwork of local laws would badly hinder
the lawful sale of tobacco, says Walker Merryman, vice president of
the Tobacco Institute in Washington.
Local governments have cracked down primarily because of a
recent surge in cigarette use among minors, say industry opponents. …