Four months ago, the town of Westminster, Massachusetts considered an outright ban on all tobacco products. The Board of Health’s proposal was so absurd that the Boston Globe said, “There are radical proposals, and then there’s Westminster’s plan to ban tobacco sales within town limits.”
The Board also lumped non-tobacco products like electronic cigarettes into the proposal, putting on display their utter lack of common sense or concern for public health. Here is a copy of the letter that we sent to the Board at the time.
The public was outraged; tobacco and e-cigarettes are legal products after all. The Board of Health was met with the full fury of local citizens who wanted the nanny-staters to step off. They dropped the proposal. Common sense prevailed.
Now, less than an hour’s drive away in the town of Winchester, Massachusetts another Board of Health has gone rogue. After increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 exactly one year ago, they’re looking to further control local citizens lives with restrictions on tobacco product sales and electronic cigarette use.
In their meeting tonight, the Board of Health will discuss proposals that include banning the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes, implementing a minimum cost on cigars of $2.15 and $5 for a two-pack, and banning smoking and vaping in public places and workplaces.
Welcome to the theater of the absurd.
If the Winchester Board of Public Health’s goal is to ensure that smokers continue smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes, all of these proposals make perfect sense. If, however, their goal is the overall improvement of public health, restricting the availability of options for e-cigarettes does not help accomplish this goal.
Adults prefer flavors to traditional tobacco and menthol. A recent survey indicates that more than 65 percent of non-smoking vapers (consumers of non-tobacco e-cigarettes and vapor products) consider flavors other than tobacco to have been important or very important in helping them quit. For women, that number is more than 70 percent.
Prohibiting flavors ensures that smokers have fewer options when it comes to quitting an unhealthy habit. Electronic cigarettes and vapor products are estimated to be 99% less hazardous than smoking.
Restricting the availability of options to adult consumers under the guise of “protecting children” puts at risk a publicly stated goal of the public health community for decades: getting people to quit smoking cigarettes.
We urge the Winchester, Massachusetts Board of Health to reject these proposals and to focus on education initiatives supported by facts instead.