You may have never heard of Westminster, Massachusetts. But remember the name. This small American town recently served as a battlefield for the war against cigars, and in this fight, cigars won. Little Westminster, a town that’s older than the United States itself, has a population of only 7,000. It made news this fall when it nearly became the first town in the United States to ban all tobacco sales. Not just cigars, but cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes—none of them could have been sold within the 37-square-mile town.
The move was not driven by public opinion, but by the desires of the Westminster board of health, which consists of only three people. A majority vote by the board (meaning two votes) was all that was needed to pass the ban.
Two votes. To dictate the behavior of thousands.
But something happened. The citizens of Westminster weren’t happy. In November, at a public hearing about the ban, angry town residents faced off against the board of health members in a packed room at a local elementary school. Smokers and nonsmokers alike voiced their opinions, which leaned overwhelmingly against the ban. The crowd was so incensed that the board had to cut the meeting short, and the chair had to be escorted by police to her car.
The voters were finally heard. One week later, the board backed down. They held a new meeting and cast their votes: two against, one for. The action was off the table.
What happened in Westminster could happen anywhere. The cigars we love are a legal product made for consumption by adults, yet the anti-smoking forces are trying to take them away. Few attacks will be as brazen as the one in Westminster, but the overall goal is the same: taking away liberties.
As many in that room in November asked, where does it end? If you ban tobacco, do you next target alcohol? Fatty foods? Fast cars? It’s a slippery slope.
Back to Westminster, where the story isn’t over. Now that the tobacco ban has been shelved, there’s a new petition making its way around this small town. The target of this proposal isn’t cigars—it’s the board. There’s a movement to recall the people who started all the drama in the first place.
Send a warning to those who try to take away your liberties. Be heard. Stand up for your rights. And when your lawmakers fail to represent your will, make a change.