The Portland City Council voted unanimously on February 7 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city.
The ban will go into effect June 1 to give Portland Public Health’s tobacco prevention team time to “develop and deliver a retailer campaign and other educational resources” and to coordinate with a ban. similar on flavored tobacco products passed by the Bangor City Council October 2021.
The intention of the ban is to “combat the increase in tobacco and nicotine use among young people and prevent a new generation of young addicts”.
Changes to the City of Portland’s code, which the council voted to approve, include a new definition of flavored tobacco products as anything that “imparts a taste or odor, other than the taste or odor of tobacco , either before or during consumption of , a tobacco product.
The definition of a tobacco product will also be amended to include natural or synthetic products derived from tobacco or nicotine.
The ban was originally presented by the city’s Public Health Division to the Portland Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee in October 2021.
In November 2021, the public safety committee voted to recommend that the action be taken by the full city council. Councilman Tae Chong, chairman of the public security committee, sponsored the order before the full city council.
“The reason we bring this order before us is basically to warn the most vulnerable among us, especially children and people of color, and especially the LGBT community,” Chong said during the February 7 meeting.
Chong said flavored tobacco bans are “not new to Maine” or the United States, where the policy exists in “more than 300 municipalities across the country.”
According to Chong, the reasoning behind the ban on flavored tobacco is that “all five popular types of cigarettes are flavored tobacco for children between 12 and 17 years old.”
Before voting on the ban, the council heard more than two hours of public comment from people on both sides of the issue.
At its Feb. 7 meeting, council also voted to repeal, rather than renew, the city’s indoor coverage mandate.
On January 3, the council voted to amend the city code to add a requirement that face coverings be worn in all public indoor spaces in the city. The measure was to be reviewed every 30 days.
At their Feb. 7 meeting, the board was due to vote on extending the mask’s term until March, but instead voted to repeal it by a vote of seven to two.
The mandate will end on February 17, ten days after the council’s vote.
The city council also heard the first reading of a city code amendment that would have reinstated hazard pay while the mask mandate was in effect. The measure would require the minimum wage to be increased to one and a half times the usual rate while the mask mandate was in effect, requiring employers to pay hourly-paid workers $19.50 an hour.
The hazard pay was previously in effect, but the board voted to end it at its Jan. 3 meeting.