The town of Westminster, Massachusetts has become the latest battleground against the tobacco industry. It hopes to ban all tobacco sales.
Residents of this small town will be given the opportunity to debate a health board proposal to ban the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products with the potential of making it the first community in the country to snuff out everything from e-cigarettes to flavored cigars.
While public health groups are applauding the town’s direction towards becoming a smoke-free community, smokers, their advocates and business owners are furious over the debate and potential ban.
“What I find terrifying is government overstepping,” said resident and nonsmokers Jennifer Shenk during a town government meeting. Shenk was raised by a smokers and recently lost a family member to lung cancer is not supporting the ban, as it is overreaching consumer rights.
David McKeehan, president of the North Central Chamber of Commerce and resident, said his concern and the concern of the Chamber of Commerce is the idea of restraint of trade.
“It will not only have a negative impact on business in this town, but it could have a negative impact on the growth of businesses in this town,” McKeehan said.
While a local retailer has already collected 900 signatures to fight the ban, some residents are in favor of banning the sales of all tobacco and nicotine products to help better the community.
For example, resident Vicki Tobin expressed her desire to keep cigarettes out of sight – and mind – of her three young boys.
“I just think it’s a great step in a positive way to promote a healthy town, a healthy lifestyle,” Tobin told the Associated Press.
According to the American Lung Association, no other community or town has outright banned the sale of tobacco products, but some retailers have been reexamining their current policies to promote better health.
The most recent monumental decision involves CVS, the second largest drugstore chain in the nation, and their courageous decision to stop the sale of all tobacco-related products. This decision was based on providing their employees with a better environment, creating a tobacco-free generation of youths and ultimately promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Today there are 43.8 million smokers in the country, according to the American Lung Association. Tobacco-related diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other cancers, heart disease and stroke kill almost half a millions Americans each year.
By working to reduce access to tobacco products, every person and every company can play a role in helping end this toxic threat.
Smokers also have to face the burden of paying higher life and health insurance premiums, as they are a greater risk towards for the insurance company. By quitting smoking, one can reduce their premium payments after being smoke-free for one year.