About 500 people crowded into Westminster Elementary School for the hearing. Shouts and claps from the crowd impeded the request to come to order, and Board of Health chairperson Crete struck the gavel to close the hearing in under 25 minutes. Crete and other board members were escorted out by law enforcement. Crete stated “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to have the hearing. We’re trying to save lives and prevent children from being future tobacco users.” Alternative plans were set to accept written testimony sometime in December 2014. The board also expressed its disdain of electronic cigarettes and bubblegum-flavored cigars. The board is calling for a total ban on all tobacco sales and tobacco-related sales within town lines.
The proposed ban was met with angry reactions from many residents, including non-smokers and tobacco shop owners. Tobacco shopkeeper Brian Vincent feels that the ban will hurt the local economy. Smokers will just turn to nearby towns for cigarettes along with purchasing gas and groceries in other locations. Tobacco industry groups also feel the ban is bad policy that would adversely affect local employers. Other protesters don’t want local, state or federal government interfering with the ability of adults to make their own legal choices. Vincent took it another step further by saying “What’s next? Sugar? Bacon?” The freedom of choice was the central issue for many who appeared at the hearing.
Things are also heating up in Madison, Wisconsin when it comes to electronic cigarettes. Wisconsin’s current smoking ban does not include e-cigarettes or vaping. However, members of the Madison City Council are seeking to ban vaping in public. Council members are now stating that vaping in public might pose a health hazard. President Gary Conley of the American Vaping Association is a strong opponent against the introduction of this type of ordinance. According to Conley, “The chemicals that have been identified are at such low levels that no serious toxicologists would claim that vapor poses a risk to the health of bystanders.”
This ordinance is also imbalanced. While it seeks to ban vaping in public and in vape shops, hookah lounges and cigar bars in Madison will be unaffected. Currently, many restaurants and bars in Madison welcome vaping. As long as there is no evidence proving harm from e-cigarette vapor, Conley feels that business establishments should be able to regulate their own policies.
Only time will tell the future of e-cigarettes. If the ban was passed in Westminster, all tobacco sales permits and nicotine delivery product sales would have ceased. Proposed fines included $300 for the first violation along with suspension of board of health-issued permits from seven days to two years. The proposed ban also included tobacco-related vending machines.