Proposal goes up in smoke
In what would have been the nation’s first citywide tobacco ban, Westminster, Massachusetts’ proposal has gone up in smoke.
At its regular meeting early today, the Westminster board of health voted 2-1 to drop the proposal to ban tobacco sales, ending a controversial, polarizing time for their city. This vote comes just days after a public hearing had to be ended early for being too heated, requiring police escorts for the board members in this town of only 7,700 residents.
So what happened? Proponents noted the ban would keep tobacco out of the hands of youths, but local businesses pointed out the loss in sales that would occur, also noting that people would simply take their purchasing power to the next town over.
“The town is not in favor of the proposal, and therefore I am not in favor of the proposal,” one board of health representative said while making a motion to drop the proposal.
Residents were praised for their participation in the process. “You made the difference,” they were told. “It didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked, but thank you.”
There is now a petition to recall two board members that voted to drop the proposal, and the third board member is not eligible for recall because she is up for re-election next year.
The petition was started by a local business owner who says over five percent of his sales are attributed to tobacco products and resulting sales.
The American Lung Association originally praised the proposal, acknowledging it would be the first of its kind in America. The Tobacco industry criticized the proposal as bad policy, infringing on personal choice.
One mother tells the local paper that she supported the ban as a “great step in a positive way to promote a healthy town.”
Opponents say the ban was controversial because they “feel this [was] being shoved down their throats.”
“We didn’t want to stop people from smoking in private,” one board member noted, “but unfortunately that’s the way it came off.”