WESTMINSTER, Mass. (AP) - Only a handful of people were able to speak on a proposal that could make the tiny Massachusetts town of Westminster the first in the nation to ban all sales of tobacco products when boos and shouts from the crowd shut down the public hearing Wednesday night.
Sixty or more residents in the packed Westminster Elementary school gymnasium were registered to share their opinions. Some among the audience of several hundred toted signs opposing the ban; some had participated in a rally earlier.
But amid shouts of "America!" and "Freedom Now," Board of Health chairwoman Andrea Crete gaveled the hearing to a close just 25 minutes into it instead of taking comments.
"The crowd's getting out of control and the room's filled to capacity," she said. "We don't want any riots."
The decision [on the sales ban] rests solely with the board, which says it is fed up with bubblegum-flavored cigars, electronic cigarettes and other new products that appeal to young people. Board members say the easiest course of action is to enact a total ban on all sales within town lines.