National News Explained

Sheila Gregory, Co-Editor


Residents of Westminster, Massachusetts have been up-in-arms over the new movement to make the sale of all tobacco illegal. The enraged citizens believe that while smoking itself is a bad habit, the loss of the right to do so is worse. The Board of Health held a press conference Nov. 12 at a local elementary school in which almost 500 people packed in to let their opinions be known. The conference lasted only 20 minutes before the board members were escorted out with police protection from angry attendees.

Why is this a big deal? This would be the first town in the United States to have no sales of any tobacco products including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. While only 17 percent of Westminster residents identify as smokers, the numbers against this law have risen far beyond that. Many perceive this as the first step in stripping civil liberties from the people such as wearing religious symbols and bearing arms. Since tobacco only accounts for two percent of total revenue for the county, the Board of Health saw little risk on the economic side of it; however, general stores who have customers who buy tobacco and other items could lose as much as a third of their revenue. This county is the guinea pig for the anti-smoking movement and will set a precedent for any future cases involving the illegality of tobacco.


The aftermath of the police shooting of unarmed black man Michael Brown reached new extremes. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a State of Emergency and mobilized the National Guard in an attempt to keep violence and damages from demonstrators to a minimum. The FBI issued a warning to police forces nationwide that the decision on whether or not to try officer Darren Wilson might be the justification needed by protesters to attack law officers, which is what came to pass after the Grand Jury decided not to indict him and left Wilson a free man. Violent protests erupted late Nov. 24 after the decision was announced in Ferguson with angry citizens looting businesses and attacking police.

Why is this a big deal? The people of Ferguson and America alike are angry about this allegedly racially-profiled killing of Brown, and tensions were anything but diffused after the Supreme Court decision. Gun sales have also skyrocketed, unnerving law enforcement officials. A shift from the peaceful protests after the not-guilty ruling of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin is apparent in attitudes of Ferguson. While a lot of the protests have been nonviolent, there were more than $5 million in damages to local businesses after vandalism and looting. Tensions between black communities and white police officers have risen to an all-time high, and Ferguson will likely never recover from this broken trust — even if there wasn’t much there to begin with. President Barack Obama responded with pleas for peaceful demonstrations and a proposition for body cameras on police officers to reduce he-said, she-said testimonies leading to these racially charges cases.