Westminster, Mass., drops bad idea to ban all tobacco sales

no tobacco

Well, I saw this coming from a mile away.

Westminster, Mass., which came up with a proposal to ban all tobacco sales within town limits, dropped the whole thing after a huge uproar, both from a petition opposing it and a throng of people who showed up at the town’s board of health meeting that grew so heated it was brought to a halt 20 minutes after it started.

At a follow-up meeting this week, the health board voted (predictably, IMO) 2-1 to table the idea.

The objections didn’t necessarily come from smokers, but from local merchants and civil libertarians, who believed the move was too much of a government intrusion into private lives and personal decisions.

It was a bad idea, I mean, because of nothing else, all it would have  accomplishes was forcing people to drive to some other town five or 10 miles away to get their cigarettes. It wouldn’t have stopped anyone from smoking, it would’ve just wasted gas. Not to mention all the litigation the town likely would have been hit with.

I’m all for doing all that can be done to crack down on tobacco — within reason. This wasn’t reasonable. It wasn’t practical.

In the words of a local merchant:

“They (the health board) really saw the town was overwhelmingly against it,” said Joe Serio, the owner and pharmacist at the Westminster Pharmacy, which sells cigarettes.

“What upset everyone was that we felt like we didn’t have a say,” said Mr. Serio, who attended Wednesday’s meeting. “But this didn’t divide the town — it united us.”

Mr. Serio said the board understood that news of the proposal had put new pressures on everyone.

“It was obvious that the board wouldn’t meet again without a large contingency of townspeople there,” he said. “And there was a tremendous demand that being in the national spotlight put on us — the volume of phone calls, mail, emails, the news media that came in. After a while, you have to get back to business.”