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Mass. Town could be the First to Ban Tobacco Sales

Update Date: Oct 29, 2014 09:35 AM EDT

Officials from the town of Westminster in Central Massachusetts unveiled a new proposal this Monday to prohibit all tobacco sales. If approved, Westminster will become the first town in America where its 7,400 residents would not have access to tobacco products.

"The right to engage in business must yield to the paramount right of government to protect the public health by any rational means," the regulators cited reported by Reuters. They added that there is "conclusive evidence that tobacco smoking causes cancer, respiratory and cardiac diseases, (and) negative birth outcomes."

According to the regulators, this proposal was drafted to improve people's health, particularly among the youth. The idea of passing a total ban has been addressed for months, the Westminster health agent, Elizabeth "Wibby" Swedberg stated reported by the Boston Globe. Swedberg added that the town's Board of Health has been frustrated with tobacco companies' advertising efforts and their latest products that continue to target the younger generation.

"This doesn't seem right, that we are permitting products that, if used as directed, 50 percent of people die," Swedberg said.

D.J. Wilson, director of the Municipal Association's Tobacco Control Program, added, "This sends a clear message to residents that this is a bad product."

The ban would stop people from buying any products that have tobacco or nicotine, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Several local business owners have voiced their opposition to the proposal by gathering signatures for petitions to block the action. They strongly believe that if the ban were to be enforced, they would lose business while their customers could simply drive to nearby communities to buy tobacco products.

"It's not just the loss of tobacco sales," said Brian Vincent, the owner of Vincent's Country Store who estimated that the loss in sales could total $100,000 per year. "It's the additional impulse items smokers buy, a bottle of soda, a bag of chips for the road, scratch tickets."

The three-member board will determine whether or not the ban is accepted. The board will hold a public hearing on Nov. 12.

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