Massachusetts Town Weighs Nation’s 1st Tobacco Ban

WESTMINSTER, Mass. (AP) -

A sleepy central Massachusetts town of 7,700 has become an improbable battleground in America’s tobacco wars. On Wednesday, the Board of Health will hear public comment on a proposed regulation that could make Westminster the first municipality in the United States to ban sales of all tobacco products within town lines.

“To my knowledge, it would be the first in the nation to enact a total ban,” said Thomas Carr, director of national policy at the American Lung Association. “We commend the town for doing it.”

Town health agent, Elizabeth Swedberg, said a ban seemed like a sensible solution to a vexing problem. “The tobacco companies are really promoting products to hook young people,” she said, pointing to 69-cent bubblegum-flavored cigars, electronic cigarettes and a new form of dissolvable smokeless tobacco.

Citing a report from the U.S. surgeon general, Swedberg said that if tobacco use continues unabated, 5.6 million American children who are younger than 18 today will die prematurely because of smoking. Change, she said, “has to start somewhere.”