Massachusetts town drops plan for ban on tobacco sales after strong opposition

Government And Institutions Associated Press

Health officials in a Massachusetts town voted Wednesday to withdraw a proposal that would have made it the first in the nation to ban all tobacco sales.

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Westminster's board of health voted 2-1 at its regular meeting to drop the proposal, a week after rowdy opposition led them to end a public hearing early.

Board member Ed Simoncini, joined by fellow member Peter Munro, moved and voted to kill the proposal. Board chairwoman Andrea Crete voted to keep it under consideration.

The board had initially said the ban would help keep a variety of tobacco products from young people, but businesses strongly opposed it.

"The town is not in favor of the proposal, and therefore I am not in favor of the proposal," Simoncini said in making the motion, according to Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg.

After the motion passed, Simoncini thank the town's residents for their participation in the process, the newspaper reported.

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"You made the difference," he said. "It didn't go as smoothly as we would have liked, but thank you."

Crate did not comment at Wednesday's brief meeting, The Boston Globe reported.

Last week, she ended the hearing after about 25 minutes when boos and shouts from some among the several hundred people who crowded into a school gym began to drown out those registered to speak. Crete and the two other board members were escorted out by police, and the crowd dispersed.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't get to have the hearing," Crate said then. "We're trying to save lives and prevent children from being future users."

Opponents have been circulating a petition to recall Simoncini and Munro. Crate is not eligible for recall, since she is up for re-election in 2015.