Massachusetts City Considering Banning Tobacco Sales Completely

While most cities have banned smoking indoors in public places, and companies like CVS have decided to stop selling cigarettes outright, no U.S. town has actually banned the sale of tobacco… yet. One Massachusetts city is considering taking tobacco off the shelves, a choice that would make it the first town to do so.

The town of Westminster’s Board of Health will hear a public comment on a proposed regulation that would make it the first U.S. municipality to give all tobacco products the boot within town lines, reports the Associated Press.

“To my knowledge, it would be the first in the nation to enact a total ban,” said Thomas Carr, director of national policy at the American Lung Association. “We commend the town for doing it.”

A town health agent said she thinks the ban could be the solution to a worrisome issue.

“The tobacco companies are really promoting products to hook young people,” she said, noting the racks of cheap, bubblegum-flavored cigars and other offerings. “The board was getting frustrated trying to keep up with this.”

She cited the U.S. surgeon general saying that if people keep smoking, 5.6 million American kids under the age of 18 now will die prematurely.

On the other hand, the owner of a local market says about a quarter of his customers buy tobacco, and will often pick up other items when they’re purchasing smokes.

“It’s going to send business five minutes this way or five minutes that way — no one’s going to quit,” he says. He’s gathered more than 800 signatures for a petition against the proposal.

And as one might expect, the tobacco industry isn’t too pleased.

“We believe businesses should be able to choose which products they carry,” a spokesman for Altria Group Inc., owner of the nation’s biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA said. “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.”

The topic is so controversial that the Board of Health’s meeting will be held at a school cafeteria instead of in a conference room as usual, due to the expected turnout from the public on Wednesday.

Westminster weighs nation’s 1st tobacco ban [Associated Press]