The town of Westminster, Mass., could soon become the first in the nation to outlaw the sale of any type of tobacco, but not without a healthy dose of protest. Several hundred people packed a public hearing on the issue last night; it had moved from the health board's typical second-story conference room to a gymnasium, with some in attendance toting signs while booing and shouting "Freedom now!" and "America!" Only a few of the 60 residents who'd registered to speak were able to; just 25 minutes in, Board of Health Chairwoman Andrea Crete said she didn't want a riot and brought the hearing to a swift close with her gavel, reports the AP.
Crete and two other board members were escorted out of the building by police, and she said the board would take people's written testimony until Dec. 1 before the board votes at an unspecified date. "I'm disappointed that we didn't get to have the hearing," she says. "We're trying to save lives and prevent children from being future users." One resident responded that the town is angry to have the issue shoved down its throat and embarrassed by the national media attention. The board, meanwhile, has suggested that the easiest way to tackle the heavy marketing to kids, including bubblegum-flavored cigars, is to enact a full ban. (One local business owner has gathered several hundred signatures on a petition against the ban.)