In January of 2015, NATO will begin using a customized web-based grassroots advocacy system that allows each NATO member with just a couple of clicks of a computer mouse to send an e-mail message to the state or federal lawmakers that represent the legislative districts where each of the member’s stores are located. That is, regardless of the number of stores that a member owns and operates, the member will be able to send an e-mail message to each state senator and state representative, or U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative, for all of the member’s stores simultaneously.
Since the e-mail letter to lawmakers will already be drafted by the NATO staff, the member would only need to select whether the letter should go to state lawmakers or federal lawmakers, and then click submit. The custom alert system will recognize the member and automatically send a letter to each elected official on behalf of the each respective store.
NATO President Mary Szarmach expressed her enthusiasm for the new web alert system because “it will streamline NATO’s grassroots legislative efforts and be a valuable tool for retail members to contact their elected officials on tobacco legislation.” With the system so easy for NATO members to use, the goal is to have all NATO members communicating with their state and federal elected officials so that their voice can be heard and opinion registered on tobacco bills.
More information on the new web-based alert system will be provided to NATO members as January 1st approaches.
Yesterday, the Westminster, Massachusetts Board of Health met and voted 2-1 in favor of removing from consideration the proposed tobacco sales ban. According to media stories, Board of Health member Ed Simoncini moved to cancel any further consideration of the local tobacco sales ban because “The town is not in favor of the proposal, and therefore I am not in favor of the proposal.” There are seven retailers in Westminster that are currently licensed to sell tobacco products.
Board of Health members Simoncini and Peter Munro voted in favor of not proceeding with the proposed sales ban while Board of Health Chairperson Andrea Crete voted against the motion to kill the tobacco sales ban.
As reported last week, some 500 residents, retailers, and store employees turned out at a Board of Health public hearing on the proposed tobacco sales ban. However, Chairperson Crete closed the public hearing after only three speakers spoke because the crowd was applauding and verbally supporting the speakers.
On Wednesday evening of this week, the Westminster, Massachusetts Board of Health scheduled a public hearing regarding a first of its kind proposal in the country that would ban the sale of all tobacco products in the town. Currently, there are seven retailers licensed to sell tobacco products in Westminster, which has a population of 7,400.
In a school gymnasium filled to capacity with some 500 residents, retailers, and store employees, the freedom to sell tobacco products and the right to buy and use legal tobacco products quickly became themes during the public hearing. Democracy, and the freedom and rights upon which it was founded, were on display in Westminster with residents waving American flags and wearing stickers that read, “Support Westminster’s Businesses”.
When Board of Health Chairperson Andrea Crete opened the public hearing, she summarized the rules for the speakers, which included speaking no more than two minutes and cautioned the audience not to applaud after each speaker or to speak out of turn. As the testimony from residents began, the crowd applauded or shouted encouragement after each of the first several speakers. One of the speakers was a member of the Westminster Board of Selectmen (the town council). This member of the Board of Selectmen stated that earlier this week the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to oppose the adoption of the tobacco sales ban by the Board of Health.
Chairperson Crete warned the crowd several times to hold their applause and shouting or she would close the public hearing. However, the applause continued for the speakers and she announced that the public hearing was closed after the third speaker finished speaking. Unfortunately, due to the abrupt closing of the public hearing, some 70 residents, business owners and others who signed up to speak were not able to do so. This included NATO Executive Director and Legal Counsel Thomas Briant, who was prepared to speak about the legal ramifications of the proposed ordinance and the likelihood of litigation if the sales ban were to be adopted.
NATO has been working with the New England Convenience Store Association, the New England Service Station and Auto Repair Association, and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts to assist retailers in opposing this prohibition the sale of tobacco products in local stores.
Below is a link to a local NBC News story about the Westminster hearing. As a further affirmation that this fight over the proposed sales ban is about freedom and the right to sell, buy and use legal tobacco products, a resident led the crowd in singing “God Bless America,” which can be heard as the news story comes to an end.
The Board of Health will accept written comments until December 1, 2014, and then will consider a vote on the proposed tobacco sales ban possibly at one of its meetings in December.
Link: NBC News Report