Baltimore has been wracked by violence the past year. “Charm City” is commonly derided as “Harm City” because of the high murder rate. There’s even an entire blog devoted to documenting Baltimore Crime.
So what are city officials proposing to do to help Baltimore’s residents?
Hoping to curb smoking among teenagers and prevent a lifetime of nicotine dependence, Baltimore officials are proposing a citywide ban on the sale of individual small cigars, sometimes called “blunts” or “loosies,” in neighborhood shops.
If the public health proposal becomes law, Baltimore could be the first municipality in the country to attempt to improve residents’ overall health by limiting their access to the potentially cancer-causing cigars.
“Hopefully, we can look back and know that we protected young people from ever wanting to smoke,” said Mayor Sheila Dixon, who attended a news conference at City Hall Wednesday to announce the proposal. The ban could be enacted relatively quickly by the Health Department, which has regulatory authority to protect citizens’ health and safety.
The cigars, which have been popularized by hip-hop stars, pack more tobacco than a cigarette and come in flavors such as cherry and grape that appeal to a young crowd. It is this dangerous mingling of status symbol, sweet taste and high tobacco content that has city officials worried.
Sold under brand names such as Black & Mild, White Owl and The Game, the cigars are exempt from laws that prohibit the sale of individual cigarettes. Neighborhood shops sell the cigars, which can also be repacked with marijuana, for as little as 50 cents apiece.
And while cigarette use by teens and young adults has decreased in recent years, cigar smoking continues to be a “serious and growing health problem,” said city Health Commissioner Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein.
A 2007 study by public health researchers at the Johns Hopkins University found that nearly 24 percent of Baltimoreans ages 18 to 25 had smoked a small cigar within the past 30 days.
“This is an important step to make Baltimore healthier,” said Sharfstein, who joined the mayor in introducing the proposed ban. “This is a small but important step forward.”
The state already outlaws the sale of tobacco products to minors, so the “For the Children” defense doesn’t wash. This is a Nanny State power grab to shut down a legal activity using kiddie human shields as protection.
But hey, at least we’ll be safe from 50-cent cigars and trans-fats!