- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2014

Residents of Westminster, Massachusetts, are up in arms over a local Board of Health proposal to ban all sales of tobacco products in the community.

If approved, the broad ban would be the first of its kind in the nation, CBS News reported.

More than 60 residents packed into the Westminster Elementary School gymnasium to express their opinions on the matter — some carrying posters with the message: “This Is A Free Country?” Others shouted “America!” and “Freedom Now,” interrupting board proceedings to the point that the chairwoman, Andrea Crete, shut down the hearing at the 25-minute mark and declined to allow comments, CBS News said,

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“The crowd’s getting out of control, and the room’s filled to capacity,” she said, the media outlet reported. “We don’t want any riots.”

Several booed the board, and police were called to escort two from the meeting.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to have the hearing,” Ms. Crete said, CBS News reported. “We’re trying to save lives and prevent children from being future users.”

But the crowd didn’t’ see it that way. Many began singing “God Bless America” as they filed from the gym.

“This is inexplicable,” said Cindy Hastings-Brutvan, a local resident, CBS News reported. “I can’t even believe it. Nationally, we feel like a laughing stock in America right now, and we’re not.”

And another resident, Kevin West, said: “I find smoking to be one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do. On top of that, I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing,” CBS News reported.

The board said another hearing could be scheduled, while the vote on the proposed ban has not yet been set for a date. But one local tobacco store owner who touts $100,000 a year in business said he’s started a petition against the proposed ban — and signed on about 900 so far.

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