In what could be a prelude to Wednesday’s Board of Health public hearing on a proposed ban on tobacco sales in town, about 70 people attended Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, many to speak in opposition to the ban.
Selectmen cannot vote on the proposed ban on the sale of tobacco products, but those attending made it clear they wanted the board on their side. The Board of Health hearing will be Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Westminster Elementary School. The selectmen did not vote on the issue, but listened to more than a dozen speakers.
“There are things you can do as selectmen,” said resident Gary Richard. “You can show up.”
Mr. Richard said everyone, including governor-elect Charlie Baker, thinks the health board’s proposal is a crazy idea. Mr. Richard suggested that selectmen have the town’s law firm, Kopelman & Paige, get creative and find a way to stop the proposed ban. Many of those who spoke were people who never smoked or who no longer smoke.
Bruce Siebert, who said he is a Vietnam veteran, said he started smoking when the government gave soldiers cigarettes as part of their rations. He said he has since quit and it was a choice he made.
“As a veteran, I fought to make sure people had a choice,” he said. “When people tend to want to make choices for us, that’s tyranny.”
Resident Jennifer Shenk said she was raised by smokers and a family member recently died of lung cancer. She said she does not smoke, but is opposed to the ban.
“What I find terrifying is government overstepping,” she said.
David McKeehan, president of the North Central Chamber of Commerce and a Westminster resident, said his concern and the concern of the Chamber of Commerce is the idea of restraint of trade.
“It will not only have a negative impact on businesses in this town, but it could have a negative impact on the growth of businesses in this town,” he said.
Steve Ryan of the New England Convenience Store Association also addressed selectmen and presented the board with a petition against the ban containing 1,000 signatures. Steve Ryan is smoker of Richmond cogarettes http://www.cigarettestime.com/richmond/superslim-cherry
“This is about employment in the town,” he said.
Paul Caron of the New England Association of Retail Distributors also spoke, saying he was there in support of the town’s retailers. He said they would lose other business if people did not stop to buy cigarettes.
“When they stop to buy their tobacco products, they also buy other things,” he said. “Someone who is on the way to buy tobacco is not going to make two stops.”