Firestorm erupts in anti-smoking US town
The fury – and make no mistake, it is white-hot fury – went way beyond the ordinary wrath of offended citizenry. A plan to ban the sale of tobacco has ignited a call to arms in Westminister, Massachusetts.
The outrage is aimed at a proposal by the local Board of Health that could make Westminster the first town in the United States where no one could buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.
The uproar stems not from a desire by town residents to smoke: only 17 per cent do (a smidge higher than the statewide average). Many say they have never touched tobacco and find the habit disgusting. Rather, they perceive the ban as a frontal assault on their individual liberties.
...As shoppers come and go, they feed one another's fury.
"They're just taking away everyday freedoms, little by little," said Nate Johnson, 32, an egg farmer who also works in a car body shop.
"This isn't about tobacco, it's about control," he said.
"It's un-American," said Rick Sparrow, 48, a house painter.
Nearly 500 people packed a hearing at a local elementary school held by the three members of the Board of Health. Passions ran high, and the hearing became so unruly that the board chairwoman could not maintain order and shut down the hearing 20 minutes after it began.
The crowd started singing God Bless America in protest as the board members left under police protection. Angry residents circulated petitions demanding a recall election for the board members.
The crowd listened, but once the hearing was opened for public comment, people began to hoot and holler.
"You people make me sick,” one man growled at the board as the audience cheered.
Wayne R. Walker, a town selectman, said that the selectmen had voted unanimously to oppose the ban. “I detest smoking and tobacco in all its forms,” he told the health board, but such a “unilateral and radical approach” as banning all sales would “create a significant economic hardship.”
A resident named Kevin West said that smoking was “one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do,” but added: “I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing.” The shouts after his statement prompted Ms. Crete, who had issued several warnings, to declare the hearing over.
Opponents of the ban blame "outside groups" that want to make the town a test case, conjecturing that because it is so small, no one would care.
By Jove, they've sussed it out. That is exactly what's been going on. As Walter Olson explains, 'grass roots' tobacco control in Massachusetts has long been driven by government sock puppet groups (sound familiar?). Why else would a tiny town of 7,400 people have its own Tobacco Control Officer?
In other words, an extra reason for the townspeople of Westminster to be angry is that they have been paying to lobby themselves. And it’s worth knowing exactly how the game plan works, because similar ones have been rolled out to localities in various states not only on “tobacco control” but on “food policy,” environmental bans and other topics. Grass roots? If so, most carefully cultivated in high places.
Alas, for prohibitionists testing the water, Americans are not yet ready for the 'endgame', the 'tobacco free generation', 'abolition' or any of their other euphemisms and so a hasty retreat has been beaten.
Westminster drops proposal to ban tobacco sales
The local board of health on Wednesday abruptly dropped a controversial proposal to ban all tobacco sales in this small central Massachusetts town, one week after hundreds of angry residents forced a public hearing on the plan to come to raucous close.
Opponents had said the proposed ban, which would have been the first of its kind in the state, was a sign of excessive government interference in private life. Some also expressed concern that a ban would harm the local economy. Board member Edward J. Simoncini Jr. made it clear the reaction had affected his vote.
“It’s no longer under consideration -- thank you, you made the difference,” Simoncini said after a brief meeting Wednesday in which the three-member board, without opening the question to the public, voted 2-1 to kill the proposal.
The audience of about 40 offered muted round of applause.
“It is obvious the town is against it and therefore I am against it,” Simoncini said. Board member Peter M. Munro also voted to withdraw the proposal. He made no public comment.
Have a good weekend.