Bioethics Blogs

Doused Counties: Banning Tobacco Sales in Massachusetts

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The small city of Westminster, Massachusetts is voting on whether to become the first town in the nation to ban sales of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and bubblegum-shaped smoking implements within its limits. Many cities already have bans on selling tobacco to minors, smoking bars, businesses, offices, and even in public. The drugstore giant CVS has banned sales of tobacco products from its stores. But this is the first time that a city is making the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes illegal.

The reasons for the smoking ban are simple. In this town of 7,400, there has been concern that tobacco companies use marketing to create new smokers. Products such as bubblegum-flavored cigars, they claim are meant to encourage young people to smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, smoking causes 480,000 deaths annually and secondhand smoke causes 42,000 deaths each year. The American Cancer Society suggests that smoking related health care costs were $96 billion from 2000 to 2004.

With 45 million cigarette smokers, 13.2 million cigar smokers, and 2.2 million pipe smokers, such a ban will not come easily. Westminster businesses collected petitions to prevent the ban. They claim that such an action would drive customers to surrounding communities, depriving their businesses of income and the city of tax revenue. Having previously lived in a city around a Native American reservation (where as sovereign nations they do not have to collect the same taxes on a carton), a lot of people drove to the reservation to buy their cheaper cigarettes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.