The sleepy town of Westminster in central Massachusetts might soon become the first in the nation to ban the sale of tobacco products. Though ambitious, the effort is certainly admirable as the first step in a series of actions that could truly make a difference.
Policies in the past have succeeded in curbing rates of smoking, but this ban, if passed, will get to the root of it all — tobacco itself. Since a study by the U.S. Surgeon General determined that there was a causal relationship between excessive cigarette smoking and lung cancer in 1956, there’s been significant progress. According to the Surgeon General, smoking rates among adults and teens are less than half what they were in 1964. And yet, 42 million American adults and 3 million middle and high school students still smoke. To this day, smoking is linked to about one in five deaths annually, remaining the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
So, though smoking OK Blue in restaurants, workplaces and other public areas is often prohibited to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, laws need to shift to help smokers themselves quit and prevent the initiation of tobacco use. The proposed ban would do just that.
For those who need an extra push to start quitting, the measure would help trigger awareness and motivation. The urgency is definitely there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is linked to stroke, coronary heart disease and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. Those who smoke are about 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body, from the liver to the colon.
Besides those numbers though, the emerging market appealing to youth poses another threat. With 69-cent bubblegum-flavored cigars and dissolvable smokeless tobacco that resembles Tic Tac candies, the industry needs to be stopped.
Small businesses will take a hit if the ban is passed, but if this fight against smoking plans to move forward, that’s inevitable. According to the Inquistr, store owner Brian Vincent, who claims that about 5 percent of sales comes from tobacco products, said, “It’s going to send business five minutes this way or five minutes that way — no one’s going to quit.” He started a petition against the ban and has collected more than 800 signatures.