What causes such a drastic action? The town health board is sick of trying to keep up with tobacco companies continuous marketing to underage smokers. Some of the tactics used in the small town are bubble gum cigarettes and dissoluble smokeless tobacco that look like Tic Tacs.
They have decided that change has to start somewhere. According to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General, if tobacco use and marketing continue without infringements, 5.6 million American children who are younger than 18 today will die prematurely because of smoking. And it isn’t completely unheard of. Earlier this year, drugstore CVS announced they would stop selling tobacco products.
Local merchants, including Brian Vincent, owner of Vincent’s Country Store, say that it could be disastrous for business. A quarter of his customers purchase tobacco as their main purchase, and they make supplementary purchases while they are in the store. That amounts to approximately five percent of his total sales specifically coming from tobacco products.
If the ban goes through, it will drive business outside of town. With most retailers working in a two to five percent margin, that takes their precious margin away. In light of this and with the backing of The New England Convenience Store Association, Vincent has started a petition against the ban, and he has managed to collect more than 800 signatures. And he’s not alone. There are other merchants who have collected hundreds more.
Obviously, merchants and their consumers are on the same page. Tobacco lobbyists and growers are on the side of the merchants, chanting they should be able to choose what merchandise they sell.
Everything is stirring the pot so much that the local health board has had to move its meeting to a local elementary cafeteria due to the overwhelming attendance at a meeting that is usually held in a small conference room. Board members are committed to keeping an open mind and hearing all public opinion. If the measure does pass, they are hoping that locals will support the businesses by buying more.
The stakes are high. This would be the first ban of its kind in America if the measure passes, and it could encourage other towns to also pursue the banning of tobacco products.
(Photo courtesy of SuperFantastic)