Thursday, November 20

BoH Response to Blog Post

Kevin -
 The Egremont Board of Health is discussing upgrading the town's local tobacco regulations which haven't been upgraded since 2002. Please see the BoH article in the current Egremont newsletter for more information on that.
 The article you posted regarding what the Town of Westminster is doing has nothing to do with what is in the discussion stage here in Egremont. Westminster is proposing to ban the sale of tobacco products in their town. Even though we only issue two tobacco permits in town this has never even been considered by the EBoH for discussion, never mind action.
  What the EBoH is considering regulating is the sale of e-cigarettes, which is an inhaled device that contains nicotine. Currently with no local regulation in place a 12 year old could purchase the product. And product manufacturers cleverly flavor e-cigarettes in flavors like bubble gum and root beer with the intent to appeal to the youth market. So what the EBoH is considering is prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes and all other nicotine delivery products to a minor. REPEAT: not a total ban, just a ban to minors similar to the ban to minors for cigarettes.
 The EBoH is also contemplating raising the age to purchase both tobacco products and nicotine delivery products to the age of 21. They are also discussing whether to prohibit smoking on town owned property (French Park, Transfer Station, etc) or having designated smoking areas on those properties. These and other items are in the discussion stage. If the EBoH proceeds they will hold an informational meeting and then a public hearing.
 The board invites you or anyone else to come to a regularly scheduled meeting or to contact me by phone or email with questions or comments. My work email address is: I would very much appreciate it if you would forward this message to your email group. 

Most respectfully,
Juliette Haas
Egremont Board of Health
(413) 528-0182 x 22

My Response

    Thank you for your kind response and I do understand that there is a difference between what the BoH is proposing and this article which is why I prefaced the article with the statement "because of its similarity". I also provided a link to the minutes of the BoH meeting on October 9th 2014 so people could read it for themselves. I did read the article in the town newsletter which is what alerted me to the fact that the BoH was discussing changes in the tobacco regulation.
     I do have to disagree with a couple of inaccurate statements that were made. One is that e-cigs could be sold to a twelve year old. Any products that contain nicotine are banned from sale to anyone under the age of 18 in this state. Also the statement that Tanglewood has entirely banned smoking on the property seemed misleading. Tanglewood does have designated smoking areas which I use whenever I attend an event. I only point this out to suggest that the smoking ban on town property would be more palatable if isolated smoking areas were provided for those who do smoke.
    I respect that non smokers have the right to not be subjected to second hand smoke and I have always respected that right. However, I feel that smokers have rights as well. The right to do what one chooses with their own body is indisputable. However that choice cannot violate another persons rights. For instance any adult has the right to smoke as long as they don't affect another persons right to be smoke free.
    This brings me to another point. Restricting an adults right to purchase nicotine products until they are 21 is a violation of their right. The law is clear that when a person turns 18 they are adults in the eyes of the law. This does not mean they are suddenly endowed with wisdom but they should be free to experience life on their own terms. To set the age to purchase nicotine products to 21 tells a young adult that they don't really have rights. This act also interferes with a store owners right to sell a legal product to a legal adult. This restricts the storeowners ability to make the profit that pays the bills and supports their lifestyle.
    Your desire to protect young adults from the harmful effects of smoking is noble; however the regulation you propose will not have the desired result. This will only chase business out of Egremont into surrounding towns. Not only will this take away cigarette sales but other products that these smokers would have purchased. I don't have a problem with reasonable regulations; but I do have to speak up when I see an act as unreasonable as this would be.
    In regard to passing this message on to my readers you may post this as a comment on the blog. I have lifted all restrictions on the comment section, however I reserve the option of deleting any comments I find objectionable. If anyone is disrespectful toward you or your comments I assure you the comment will be removed. Contrary to what people may think or have been told I do respect honest discussion of ideas however lively they may be.

Wednesday, November 19


The Egremont Board of Health is preparing to issue an edict in regard to the towns tobacco and nicotine dispensing device regulation. Because of its similarity I've reposted an article from NY

 Click on the following link to see the Egremont BoH proposed policy.

Firestorm Erupts in Anti-Smoking Massachusetts Town


A hearing on Wednesday with the Westminster Board of Health became so unruly that the board chairwoman could not maintain order; she shut down the hearing 20 minutes after it began. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

WESTMINSTER, Mass. — The fury — and make no mistake, it is white-hot fury — went way beyond the ordinary wrath of offended citizenry. A plan here to ban the sale of tobacco has ignited a call to arms.

The outrage is aimed at a proposal by the local Board of Health that could make Westminster the first town in the country where no one could buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.

The uproar stems not from a desire by people here to smoke — only 17 percent do (a smidge higher than the statewide average). Many say they have never touched tobacco and find the habit disgusting. Rather, they perceive the ban as a frontal assault on their individual liberties. And they say it would cripple the eight retailers in town who sell tobacco products.

The ban is the major topic at Vincent’s Country Store, where a petition against it sits on the front counter and attracts more signatures every day; at last count, 1,200 people had signed, in a town of 7,400.

As shoppers come and go, they feed one another’s fury.

"The issue for me is freedom. Whether you are a smoker or not, you have a right to go and buy tobacco products in Westminster; it is a legal product," said Keith Harding, who carried this sign to one of Westminster's main intersections. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

"They’re just taking away everyday freedoms, little by little," said Nate Johnson, 32, an egg farmer who also works in an auto body shop, as he stood outside the store last week. "This isn’t about tobacco, it’s about control," he said.

"It’s un-American," put in Rick Sparrow, 48, a house painter.

As Wayne and Deborah Hancock grabbed a shopping cart, they joined in. All quickly agreed that the next freedoms at risk would be guns and religion, prompting Mrs. Hancock, 52, a homemaker, to say that she was afraid to wear her cross.

"I’m thinking, ‘Am I going to be beheaded?’ " she said, not entirely joking.

Nearly 500 people packed a hearing at a local elementary school on Wednesday night held by the three members of the Board of Health. Passions ran high, and the hearing became so unruly that the board chairwoman could not maintain order; she shut down the hearing 20 minutes after it began.

The crowd started singing "God Bless America" in protest as the board members left under police protection. Angry residents circulated petitions demanding a recall election for the board members.

Few can fathom how Westminster became the latest setting for the nation’s decades-old tobacco wars. The pre-Revolutionary settlement emerged as a stagecoach stop in the late 1700s between Boston, 50 miles away, and points west. It remains largely rural and votes heavily Republican. There is no industry here, not even a mall.

Andrea Crete, center, was escorted from the public hearing afterward. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

Opponents of the ban blame "outside groups" that want to make the town a test case, conjecturing that because it is so small, no one would care.

In fact, the Board of Health has been discussing the ban since the spring. But no one noticed until the board notified merchants last month that they could lose their permits to sell tobacco. David B. Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, the nation’s biggest tobacco company, said the company was monitoring the situation but had not been involved or stoked the rebellion.

Tobacco accounts for only a fraction of total revenue at the stores here that sell it. But people who buy cigarettes and cigars also buy other things, and studies say that losing those customers can cost stores a third of their revenue.

"The name of the game is one-stop shopping," said Joe Serio, the owner and pharmacist at the brown-shingled Westminster Pharmacy, where tobacco sales are 2 percent of revenues, and where wine and beer are stocked next to the cramped aisles of Band-Aids and antacids.

Over the years, Massachusetts has banned smoking in workplaces, as well as in restaurants and bars. And most of the state’s 351 cities and towns have enacted their own restrictions. For example, 105 towns have banned tobacco sales in health care institutions, including pharmacies; 34 have raised the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21 from 18; eight have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

But Westminster would be the first in the state and nation with a full-blown ban on selling all tobacco and nicotine products. The idea originated with the Board of Health, which says it has a moral obligation to try to stop young people from smoking. The board found it hard to keep up with all the new products, like bubblegum-flavored cigars and strawberry-margarita-flavored tobacco, many of them aimed at hooking young people.

"We have a whack-a-mole-effect," Joan Hamlett, the town’s tobacco control agent, said at the hearing Wednesday night before it was cut short. "Every 18 months since 1994, this Westminster Board of Health has been looking at different regulations because every time we work together to find a way to reduce youth access to tobacco, the tobacco industry comes out with a new product that we have to look at and address and figure out how to regulate."

Brian Vincent, left, was concerned a tobacco ban would hurt his business. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times Continue reading the main story

Andrea Crete, chairwoman of the Board of Health, quoting a report from the surgeon general, said that youth who shop at least twice a week in stores that sell tobacco are 64 percent more likely to start smoking than those who do not.

"The Board of Health permitting these establishments to sell these dangerous products that, when used as directed, kill 50 percent of its users, ethically goes against our public health mission," Ms. Crete said.

The crowd listened, but once the hearing was opened for public comment, people began to hoot and holler.

"You people make me sick," one man growled at the board as the audience cheered.

Wayne R. Walker, a town selectman, said that the selectmen had voted unanimously to oppose the ban. "I detest smoking and tobacco in all its forms," he told the health board, but such a "unilateral and radical approach" as banning all sales would "create a significant economic hardship."

A resident named Kevin West said that smoking was "one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do," but added: "I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing." The shouts after his statement prompted Ms. Crete, who had issued several warnings, to declare the hearing over.

She said that people could submit their views in writing until Dec. 1. The board, which has final say on the ban, will schedule another meeting and vote on the proposal, but she did not know when.

As angry citizens milled about after the aborted hearing, Brian Vincent, who owns Vincent’s Country Store, said he was disappointed he did not have a chance to tell the board that none of the merchants in town sell the kind of cheap, sweet tobacco products that the board is worried about. And none have been found in the last two years with underage sales violations.

Among the hundreds of protesters at the hearing, at least two people — doctors — supported the ban. Dr. Corey Saltin and Dr. Payam Aghassi, lung specialists who have a private practice nearby, said that they understood concerns about free choice but that people who are subjected to secondhand smoke have rights, too.

"This ban is going to happen somewhere, sometime," Dr. Saltin predicted. "But probably not in Westminster."

Friday, November 14


            Well the people of Egremont made a very important decision on November 4th. We said that we are going to take back control of our town. We are not going to leave our town’s affairs to be decided by a small group of people with their own agenda. Town government works best when more people participate. This can only happen when a majority of the town’s people get together and decide what is best for the town as a whole. They do this at regular elections and when they meet together as fellow legislators at a town meeting to discuss the issues that affect the town and vote on those issues. Then the town officials are directed to implement these mandates.

There are many who say the CPA was a very divisive issue and it was; but then every issue is divisive or it’s not an issue. However, we can’t use divisiveness as a reason to not talk about controversial issues. Rather we must discuss these issues with mutual respect, understanding that we are divided on the issue. Personally I think this brought more people together than it divided; otherwise this high of a turnout would have been impossible. People discussed the issue amongst one another and decided not to adopt the CPA.

To the surprise of many 632 of the 934 registered voters came out to cast their vote in regard to the CPA and other state issues. That’s almost 70 % of all registered voters. 52% of these voters rejected the CPA while passing many of the state initiatives and overwhelmingly electing a democratic ticket. So don’t think the CPA failed because of a few outspoken opponents. It failed because a majority of voters felt it wasn’t for this town.  The pro CPA people didn’t expect this issue would bring out as many as it did and no one expected nearly 70% of the registered voters to show up at the polls; but they did. In fact one of our oldest and most respected citizens said that in his entire lifetime he had never seen such a turnout.

 We have a lot of people to thank for such a large turnout and the defeat of the CPA tax. I would like to thank the people who came out to vote, those who allowed signs to be posted in their yard, many who called and asked people to spread the word and last but not least those who financially supported this cause. I didn’t even have to ask people to volunteer; several people came to me and asked if they could call people to get out the vote. Others asked me for signs to pass out to their neighbors, friends and family. Most people simply discussed the CPA issue with everyone they knew and common sense told them to come out against it. We have everyone to thank and I thank you all.

This turnout was no accident either, it was a town wide effort of many people from every area of our town getting together and taking their rightful place in our town’s governance. I’m not one to say I told you so but I told you so. I said that we the people have the power to stop the CPA and we did. My only hope is that this is the beginning of a new era where the people start taking an interest in how their town is run. I hope this is a foresight of a well attended town meeting whereby the people give a clear dictate to our elected officials.  Town officials will do what they were elected to do or what they are allowed to get away with; we have to remind them that they were put in office to exercise the will of the people as expressed at the town meeting. They each have their voice as a citizen but their job as selectmen is to follow the directive of the people.

Sunday, November 2


            We the people of Egremont have a very important decision to make this November 4th. Are we going to allow ourselves to be taxed into oblivion for every little thing that some special interest group wants or will we make a stand against this blatant grab for our hard earned money? It seems that the more we give the more they want to take. It’s an endless cycle. Government can’t make money they can only take it from the people who earn it. I understand the need for taxation. Taxes are necessary for common necessities but not for luxuries.
            A neighboring town passed a new property tax under the guise of community preservation. How does taking money from people who work several jobs just to make ends meet preserve a community? It doesn’t! This does more to destroy a community than preserve it. The more money taken from people who can’t afford to pay the less they are able to spend on preserving their own property. Then property values go down thus destroying the community. This so a small group of people can fund a few “worthy” projects. Let’s look at a couple of these so called “worthy” projects that are being considered for funding with these monies.
Someone purchased an old building and spent several million dollars developing it. This property is now going to be used for their business.  The business owners are asking that 150 thousand dollars from this preservation fund be given to them for “historical restoration”. Ironically this building was never planned to be used as a private business. So much for historicity.
Another “worthy” project being considered is a large property that had been vacant and overgrown for decades. Someone purchased this property for a very low price and has plans to turn it into a profitable multi use business. The owners are asking for about a half million dollars from this fund for approved preservation purposes.
Do these people really need the money? Of course not; if they can afford to put several million into purchasing and developing these properties then they certainly don’t need our money. They’re asking for the money because it’s free to them and it is there for the taking. The question is, who are they taking the money from? This is taxing the poor to fund the rich.
There is a small group of people in Egremont who have their own special agenda. They see other towns getting a lot of money under the pretext of community preservation. They see a big pot of money and they want a piece of it. This agenda is not in the best interest of our town as a whole; it benefits a few at the expense of many. These people are trying to advance their agenda at the expense of the entire town and we the people will have to pay for it if we allow them to get away with it.  
Now I have a reputation for being a bit outspoken and I am. But when you look at my commentary I simply say aloud what people are thinking but won’t say. Now I hear voices of dissent coming from many people who disagree with the CPA but feel powerless to do anything about it. They feel that the election process is stacked against them and there’s nothing they can do about it. I can only say that we the people have the power to stop this. But we not only have to get ourselves out to vote; we need to get our friends and neighbors out to the polls. WE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER. We are a true democracy where every vote is equal and no vote is more equal than any other. Please come out and vote no for the CPA because the only vote that doesn’t count is the vote that isn’t cast.