A firestorm of outrage has erupted in a small Massachusetts town over a a local government agency's proposal to ban all sales of tobacco and nicotine products.
According to the New York Times, local residents are infuriated with a plan by the local Board of Health that would make Westminster — a town of 7,400 — the first county in the nation to prohibit the sales of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.
"It's un-American," resident Rick Sparrow, 48, told the Times.
Rowdy citizens hold signs, shout, and wave an American flag, moments before the Westminster Board of Health meeting on the proposed tobacco ban was shut down, at the Westminster Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Westminster, Ma. (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Steve Lanava)
That sentiment was echoed by several others.
“They’re just taking away everyday freedoms, little by little,” Nate Johnson, 32, told the newspaper. “This isn’t about tobacco, it’s about control."
[sharequote align="center"]“This isn’t about tobacco, it’s about control."[/sharequote]
The proposed ban would have a striking impact on the eight retailers in the small town that sell tobacco products. One petition, resting on the counter of the Vincent's County Store, has amassed more than 1,200 signatures.
Citizens hold signs at the Westminster Board of Health meeting on the proposed tobacco ban, at the Westminster Elementary School, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Westminster, Ma. (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Steve Lanava)
According to the Times, about 500 people filled a local elementary school for a town hall Wednesday night where tempers soared so high the meeting was forced to quickly be canceled and board members were escorted out by police.
The crowd reportedly started singing "God Bless America" as the board members scurried out of the venue.
“You people make me sick,” one man told the board as the audience cheered him on, according to the Times.
One resident, Kevin West, said that he finds smoking "one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do," but added, "I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing.”
According to the Times, opponents of the ban blame outside groups who want to use their small town as a test case. The plan has reportedly been in the works since the spring, however, no one noticed until merchants were told they could soon lose their licenses to sell tobacco.
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