Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents

Part 26 of 26 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm |

Officials in the town of Westminster, Mass., are trying to ban the sales of all tobacco products, but had to call off a meeting last week after 20 minutes because residents of the town were up in arms about the proposal.

And yes, you read that correctly: Westminster has proposed banning ALL tobacco products in the town. This isn’t ban on smoking in restaurants or even a New York City-style ban on smoking in public places.

It’s an outright ban on the sale, possession or use of tobacco products anywhere in in the town.

According to the draft proposal posted online, the ordinance would ban all tobacco, regardless of whether it is “smoked, chewed, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means.” All existing permits to sell tobacco products would be revoked, if the ban were approved by the town council.

According to the American Lung Association, the town would be the first to impose a blanket ban on tobacco.

But, well, the people who live in Westminster don’t seem too excited about. They flooded a town meeting last week and forced the postponement of a vote on the tobacco ban.

“I find smoking to be one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do. On top of that, I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing that anybody could ever give any town in the United States of America,” said Kevin West, a resident of the town, according to videos posted online after the rowdy meeting.

According to newspaper accounts of the meeting, the angry residents included store-owners who worried about how a ban on tobacco would affect their bottom lines and smokers like Nate Johnson, who told the Boston Globe “it’s my body and it’s my choice to smoke.”

The proposed ban also targets electronic cigarettes, even though they contain no tobacco. Because why not?

If the ban becomes law, anyone caught selling tobacco products or e-cigarettes in Westminster will face a $300 fine. Repeat offenders can have all permits issued by the town’s Board of Health revoked, effectively shutting down a business.

Despite promises by ban-supporters that the ordinance would make Westminster a more attractive and healthy place to live, the most likely outcome is the creation of a black market for cigarettes brought in from neighboring towns.

Then again, prohibition of alcohol and drugs has been so successful, why shouldn’t we do the same with tobacco.