Mom-and-pop stores in the quiet town of Westminster are exhaling after that town’s Board of Health opted not to pursue a townwide ban of the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products.
Such a ban would have been the first in the nation and the idea garnered national media attention.
Today, less than a day after the initiative was scuttled, Brian Vincent, owner of Vincent’s Country Store, said the proposal was ill-conceived, saying it would not accomplish its goal of reducing underage smokers.
He said tobacco products consist of about five to six percent of his business.
“It’s not like this is a rural village in Alaska, they have access to it in any direction,” Vincent, adding that tobacco consists of about 5 percent of his sales. “We know smoking is bad for us, but what legal item we buy, that’s our decision.”
Joe Serio, owner of Westminster Pharmacy, said cigarettes make up a small percentage of his sales but wouldn’t get into specific numbers.
“It’s a small percentage but the name of the game is one-stop shopping,” he said. “If you don’t have what they want, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Serio said the issue wasn’t really about smoking, suggesting residents were more agitated at what they perceived to be government overreach. Public officials, after all, were contemplating a proposal that had not gone before voters.
“The majority of people that were against it are nonsmokers,” he said. “That’s because it’s taking away our right to vote.”
Chris Bjurling, owner of Depot General Store, was pleased so many in the town supported its businesses.
There was heated and substantial opposition to the idea among the 7,000 plus souls that call Westminster – a community in northern Worcester County near the New Hampshire border – home.
He said the plan would not have convinced anyone to stop smoking. He said his store does about $200,000 in tobacco sales annually.
He estimated that the ancillary losses that would have been caused by the ban would match that number.
“People throughout the country were laughing at this town because of this,” he said. “But it’s nice to know it’s still the United States.”