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Massachusetts Town Considers Banning All Tobacco Sales

Westminster, Massachusetts could become the first community in America to ban the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products, pending a vote Wednesday night by the town’s Board of Health.

The Worcester Telegram reports that Westminster’s Board of Selectmen held a hearing Monday night that about 70 residents attended, “many to speak in opposition to the ban,” among them “people who never smoked or who no longer smoke.”

One resident, a Vietnam veteran who started smoking in the service but has since quit, said he “fought to make sure people have a choice,” and that it was “tyranny” for the government to try to make people’s choices for them. (RELATED: DoD, Navy, Want to Ban Tobacco Sales on Navy and Marine Bases)

Another, a nonsmoker who had recently lost a relative to lung cancer, said simply, “What I find terrifying is government overstepping.”

Others expressed more materialistic concerns. David McKeehan, a Westminster resident and president of the local Chamber of Commerce, predicted that the ban would “not only have a negative impact on businesses in this town, but it could have a negative impact on the growth of businesses in this town.”

Paul Caron of the New England Association of Retail Distributors elaborated, noting that, “when [people] stop to buy their tobacco products, they also buy other things,” meaning the ban could cost the town more than just tobacco sales. (RELATED: Tobacco: Crime’s New Currency)

Responsibility for the decision will rest solely with the three members of the Board of Health, who have said that they “will not answer any questions at the meeting,” so that they can hear from all the scheduled speakers in the allotted two hours.

This prompted another resident to argue that the matter should be put to a vote, saying, “I don’t think it is fair that you are taking away my rights not to vote for something that affects me.” (RELATED: Why Legalize Pot and Ban Tobacco?)

Andrea Crete, the Board’s chairman, was present at Monday night’s hearing, where she explained that the purpose of the ban is to make tobacco products less accessible to children, and insisted that, “the board had no intention of banning other things.”

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