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Massachusetts town debating nation’s first citywide tobacco ban

(Business News) Could a tobacco ban in a sleepy Massachusetts town lead to cigarettes and other tobacco products being banned from shelves nationwide? Are there unseen consequences to local businesses?

cigarette smoke

cigarette tobacco smoke

Westminster considering a tobacco ban

You may already live in a city that makes smoking indoors illegal, or that has banned sodas or plastic bags, but one tiny town in Massachusetts is the first city to take a serious look at pulling tobacco from all store shelves. The town of Westminster’s Board of Health will hear a public comment on the proposed regulation, according to the AP.

One town health representative expressed that the ban could solve a long term problem, particularly in light of the fact that “the tobacco companies are really promoting products to hook young people,” she said, noting the endless racks of cheap, bubblegum-flavored cigars and other offerings. “The board was getting frustrated trying to keep up with this.”

Thomas Carr, Director of National Policy at the American Lung Association says they “commend the town for doing it.”

The town health rep cited the U.S. Surgeon General, noting that if people continue smoking, 5.6 million Americans currently under the age of 18 will die prematurely.

Could the ban hurt local businesses?

Of course, the tobacco industry is not in support of the ban. A Philip Morris USA spokesperson stated that businesses should have the right to choose which products they carry, adding, “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

A local store owner says that one in four of his customers purchase tobacco, typically make other purchases while buying their cigarettes. He points out that the ban would simply “send business five minutes this way or five minutes that way — no one’s going to quit.”

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He has gathered more than 800 signatures for a petition against the proposal.

Next up: duking it out

The controversial topic has many in the town in an uproar, both in support and criticism. The Board of Health has moved their meeting this Wednesday from their conference room to a local school cafeteria, as attendance is expected to be quite large.

Should the proposal pass, expect other cities to take a look at their policy, just as they have with smoking in public spaces, trans fats in foods, plastic bag bans, and so forth.

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