Townsfolk in the central Massachusetts burg of Westminster (population: c. 7,700) may soon have to drive to neighboring towns to get their smoke on; the town is considering an outright ban of the sale of all tobacco products within the city limits, WCVB is reporting.
Thomas Carr, of the American Lung Association, says that, if enacted, the Winchester tobacco ban would be the first city-wide such ban in the nation, as far as he knows.
“To my knowledge, it would be the first in the nation to enact a total ban. We commend the town for doing it.”
The Winchester Board of Health, which ordinarily considers such weighty topics as septic system improvement and mosquito control, would be in charge of enacting and enforcing the tobacco ban. Board of Health member Elizabeth Swedberg says, via the Associated Press, that new tobacco products are appearing on the market faster than the Board can regulate them.
“The tobacco companies are really promoting products to hook young people. The board was getting frustrated trying to keep up with this.”
She cited cheap bubblegum-flavored cigars, flavored electronic cigarettes (or E-Cigs, as they’re called in the tobacco industry), and smokeless tobacco that resembles small candies, saying that she believes these tobacco products are targeted to children.
“Change has to start somewhere.”
Business owner Brian Vincent, who owns a mom-and-pop convenience store, believes a tobacco ban would hurt his business, which makes about five percent of its sales from tobacco products.
“It’s going to send business five minutes this way or five minutes that way — no one’s going to quit.”
Vincent has started a petition — with over 800 signatures as of this post — opposing the tobacco ban. And the tobacco industry is behind him; Dave Sutton, of the group that owns Phillip Morris, calls the proposed tobacco ban “bad policy.”
“We believe businesses should be able to choose which products they carry. If the ban were to be implemented, adult tobacco and e-vapor consumers could shift their purchases to neighboring stores. The proposed regulations, if enacted, would fundamentally alter these businesses and would likely cost Westminster jobs.”
But Ms. Swedberg believes that the tobacco ban would actually encourage people to shop at local businesses — especially, she says, people who are trying to quit tobacco.
“For people who are trying to quit, it could be a better place for them to shop, because they wouldn’t be confronted with tobacco.”
The Board will meet this Wednesday to consider whether to enact the proposed tobacco ban, according to the Portsmouth Herald.
Do you believe the Massachusetts community of Westminster is doing the right thing by enacting a tobacco ban?
[Image courtesy of: Kerry Gaynor Method]