A 65-year-old convenience store worker in New Hampshire is in the national spotlight after she was fired for refusing to let a welfare recipient use his government-issued EBT debit card to buy a pack of cigarettes. Now that she's out of a job, Jackie Whiton is making it her mission to lobby for changes that would prohibit using EBT cards for cigarettes, strip clubs, lotto tickets, and other fun stuff. Here in New York, State Senator Tom Libous is one step ahead of her, having introduced legislation this month that would prohibit using EBTs on lap dances and Lady Carltons.
Whiton tells the Union Leader newspaper, "What happened was, a young man came in and wanted to buy cigarettes and I asked him for his ID and he handed me his EBT card. I told him he couldn't buy them with the card and he said yes he could." The next day, the man's foster mother marched down to the convenience store to complain, and Whiton says, "The next day I got a call from the home office and they said I have to sell to him and I said at 65 years old, I don't have to do anything I don't want to do. I said I would bow out gracefully and gave my two weeks' notice. The next day they fired me."
She's quickly become a conservative icon to rival Joe the Plumber. Appearing on Fox News Wednesday, Whiton recalled, "I said, ‘Do you think taxpayers should be paying for your cigarettes?’ and he thought we should." The store's owner tells the Bangor Daily News, "Our employees cannot impose their own personal biases over these products and make decisions about what will and will not be sold to individual customers."
Whiton has started a petition to protest the use of EBT cards for such items, and she says, "The support of this has been overwhelming to me, and I will be sending a petition to the governmet to dissolve these cash cards." A federal law now requires states to prohibit welfare spending on "sin activities" by 2014, or forfeit 5 percent of the welfare funding. It's unclear if New Hampshire will follow New York's lead. Terry Smith, director of DHHS Division of Family Assistance, says restricting EBT purchases would not stop irresponsible spending, because users could simply go to an ATM and get cash to throw around in the champagne room.