Portland followed Bangor in banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, a move advocates hope will spur passage of a statewide ban.
The Portland City Council voted unanimously to ban the sale of the products in the city Monday, more than three months after Bangor became the first community in Maine to do so. Both bans come into effect on June 1.
Tobacco control advocates in Portland and elsewhere say sales bans are the only way to ensure children don’t have access to e-cigarette products. Tobacco and vaping companies have a long history of marketing their products to children, they say, noting the many fruity flavors available for e-cigarettes and the many young people in Maine who started using e-cigarettes when they were less 21 years old.
But many local vape and smoke shops say a ban will seriously hamper their business and could even cause them to cut staff or close their doors. Many other stores will also lose revenue due to the ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes.
Vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, said Anthony Scott, co-owner of Portland Smoke and Vape on Brighton Avenue, during a public comment period ahead of Monday’s vote.
Smoking and vaping products were already illegal for purchase by those under 21, he said.
“They are not allowed in our store to view these products,” Scott said.
Although many Portland councilors said their decision on how to vote was difficult, all voted evenly in favor of a ban. The council’s actions will likely reverberate far beyond Portland: it’s a symbolic victory for supporters of a Legislature bill that would ban the sale of the products statewide.
This prohibition bill was returned from committee last June, but has yet to be voted on by the full legislature.
At least one other Maine community appears to be on the verge of banning the sale of the products: Brunswick voted unanimously on Monday to hold a public hearing into the matter on Feb. 22. If passed, it would also make the sale of flavored tobacco. illegal products on June 1.
The proposal is sponsored by Brunswick Councilwoman Kathy Wilson, who said she was motivated both by the Bangor ban and her own experience of starting to smoke cigarettes when she was only 12 or 13 years old. a daily habit.
She said it’s likely more municipal governments in Maine would want to pursue a ban, but would prefer state-level action to avoid a local backlash.
Her gut tells her that the sales ban will be enforced in the city, but she doesn’t want to provide any guarantees until a final vote is taken.
“I pray, for the sake of the children, that we ban it in Brunswick,” Wilson said. “The more cities that do this, the more apt the state is to step in and follow suit.”
Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said Friday that the city’s public health committee was interested in a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco in the city. He would support such a resolution and would like it to be presented to the Board as soon as possible.
“Lewiston is definitely a leader in the state – we’re the second largest city,” Sheline said. “By banning flavored tobacco in Lewiston, it sends a message to the state that residents care about protecting children.”
Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, sponsor of the state legislation, said she was encouraged by Portland’s vote to ban the products. She said she was waiting to see if Governor Janet Mills includes a ban-related item in her supplementary budget before taking further action.
When asked if Mills plans to include a smoking ban element in its supplementary budget, Mills spokeswoman Linsday Crete noted that the governor had included about $32 million to replace revenue taxes lost due to a ban on flavored tobacco in its supplementary budget last year. However, it was removed from the proposal by the legislature before it was passed.
“If the legislature were to end the sale of flavored tobacco and fund lost revenue, the governor would support it, as she did last year,” Crete said.