The Boston Globe reports that town officials in Westminster are pushing a ban on the sale of all tobacco products:
The Central Massachusetts town of Westminster would become the first community in the state, and perhaps the nation, to ban all tobacco sales under a proposal made public Monday that regulators say is designed to improve health, especially among the young.
Draft regulations posted on the town’s website would prohibit sales of products containing tobacco or nicotine, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even electronic cigarettes, which use batteries to heat nicotine-laced liquid, producing a vapor that is inhaled.
The plan has infuriated local store owners, who are circulating petitions to block the action, saying it would drive them out of business and simply send people to nearby communities for their tobacco products.
A ban such as the one under consideration in Westminster represents the next frontier in the campaign to curb tobacco use, which is already prohibited in all Massachusetts workplaces, including restaurants and bars. It is already illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, and some communities have banned smoking in public parks.
In Westminster, a town of 7,400 that sits about 25 miles north of Worcester, the Board of Health has been weighing a total ban for months, said Westminster health agent Elizabeth “Wibby” Swedberg. The board has grown increasingly frustrated trying to stay a step ahead of tobacco companies’ slick marketing and new products, such as 69-cent bubble gum-flavored cigars aimed at luring younger smokers, Swedberg said.
I don't use any tobacco products and I'd never challenge the idea that they're unhealthy, but I think this idea 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.
Passing a law like this would hurt local business that sell tobacco products and force current users to drive to other towns to buy them (driving, by the way, is pretty dangerous too). The idea that this will stop children, who already can't legally buy tobacco product, from trying them doesn't seem plausible.
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.