Anti-Smoking Policy Reminiscent of '3rd Reich'

By Mark Mead | July 7, 2008 | 8:19pm EDT

( - If you smell like smoke, you get suspended for five days. That's the message that students of a Massachusetts high school will receive when they return this fall, under their school's strict new anti-smoking policy.

The new smoking policy will result in a suspension if the student is either caught holding a lit cigarette or more than one student reports someone who has a smoky odor on them, according to Hopkinton High School Principal Jane Modoono.

"We want to send a strong message that students cannot smoke," Modoono told a Massachusetts newspaper. "Our intent is not to cause the kids to fail or drop out of school. We need to give kids the support they need and the message that they shouldn't be smoking in school."

The harsher penalties are a change from the school's former policy of fining students who are caught smoking and educating them about the dangers of cigarettes.

But the policy is drawing fire from constitutional analysts before even taking effect. Bob Levy, senior fellow for constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C. policy think-tank, called the policy "absolutely preposterous."

Levy also suggested it may be in violation of the 14th Amendment, which states that before someone can be found guilty of a crime, they must receive a fair trial, based on legitimate evidence, and with a jury.

"This, I think, crosses the line without any evidence at all that there's an illegal activity going on," Levy said. "If they're caught smoking, then they should be properly disciplined. But to suggest that they should be disciplined because they have an odor in their clothes is unbelievable."

"Sometimes schools have been permitted to do things that would not be sanctioned if the persons who were victimized were adults," he added.

Levy considers the new policy "fascistic," and compared it with anti-smoking initiatives during Germany's Third Reich.

"Hitler was an anti-tobacco zealot," Levy said. "He had posters all over the place: your body belongs to the Fuhrer, and the Fuhrer knows what's best for you. And this is reminiscent of that kind of stuff."

"I can't imagine anything so overbroad and so amorphous to justify the suspension of a student and turn all other students into a network of government agents," said Levy.

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