When Board of Health officials in Westminster proposed a law that would ban all tobacco sales in the town, they probably weren't expecting backlash like that seen last night. According to The Boston Globe:
An unruly public hearing on a proposal to prohibit the sale of tobacco products came to a sudden and rowdy halt Wednesday evening after shouting and clapping opponents of the ban repeatedly refused the chairwoman’s request to come to order...
“This is about freedom; it’s my body and it’s my choice to smoke,” said Nate Johnson, 32, a Westminster farmer and auto body worker. He was puffing on a cigarette at a rally before the hearing where opponents held signs saying “It’s not about tobacco — it’s about control” and “Smoke ’em if you got them.”
Emotions flared at the hearing, where about 500 people crowded into an elementary school gym. When one resident loudly pronounced himself “disgusted” that the board would make a proposal that infringed on personal choice, the crowd roared with approval.
After several failed attempts to bring the hearing to order, chairwoman Andrea Crete gaveled the session to an end. As police shadowed Crete out of the building, many in the audience broke out in a verse of “God Bless America.” Opponents also collected signatures on a petition to recall the three elected board members.
As I said before, I think the proposed ban is completely ridiculous. The decision as to whether a person uses tobacco should be a personal choice. If we banned everything that was unhealthy, salty snacks and sugary drinks would all be illegal too.
I find it strange how, as public opinion turns against the drug war, there are many people pushing for heavier regulations on legal drugs. I doubt that tobacco will ever face the same stringent prohibition as marijuana and other currently outlawed drugs, but that certainly seems to be the goal of some anti-tobacco crusaders. They should give pause and think about the consequences of drug prohibition — drug sales are pushed into the black market, drugs aren’t labeled and are less likely to be tested for purity, countless people are in prison for victimless crimes, and people with legitimate drug problems are afraid to seek treatment — before they try to ban yet another drug.
The proposed ban in Westminster isn't dead yet:
Crete said the board would accept written comments on the proposed ban until Dec. 1. She said the three-member elected board would then vote whether to enact the ban, probably at a meeting before the end of the year. She said the public hearing will not be reopened.
But hopefully the display at the public meeting will make the local politicians think twice about passing it.