The city of Bangor, Maine has banned flavored vaping products, including e-cigarettes. The Bangor City Council voted 7-1 in favor of the ban, which will not go into effect until after the Maine Legislature reconvenes next year. The ordinance bans the sale and marketing of all flavored tobacco products in the city — including menthol cigarettes and e-cigarette flavors that have a taste or smell besides tobacco — beginning on June 1, 2022.Credit: Ianm35
While the amended ordinance falls short of the pre-session ban that advocates hoped would spur the Legislature to action on a statewide prohibition on the sale of flavored tobacco, it is a strong gesture for a council with many members who believe the flavored tobacco issue was better solved at the state level, according to Maine Public Radio.
Opponents and supporters saw the Bangor vote as an important step in the fight to ban the sale of flavored tobacco at the state level. That bill, LD 1550, was reported out of committee earlier this year but had not come to a vote before the end of this year’s legislative session.
Many opponents brought up the contents of messages the National Association of Tobacco Outlets requested under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act that they said showed an effort by Bangor councilors, especially Councilor Sarah Nichols, to not include the voices of merchants in the process of crafting and debating the ordinance. Many of the exchanges are text messages between Nichols and Matt Moonen, who had brought the proposal to ban flavored tobacco to her. Moonen is the executive director of Equality Maine.
Earlier Monday, the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association had called for the council to suspend decisions on the tobacco ban and evaluate how councilors had acted. Sprague, one of several councilors to turn back those arguments, said such allegations had ultimately hurt the opponents’ case.
“The comments about the process and how the city has not supported open dialogue are insulting, if not repulsive,” Sprague said. City Council Chair Dan Tremble was the only councilor to vote against the ordinance. Nichols did not directly respond to statements about her during the meeting, though she referenced them in her remarks on why she supported the ordinance.
Retailers who continued to sell or market flavored tobacco products after the ordinance took effect would first face a warning, and then a $50 to $100 fine for their next offense within a two-year period after the warning. A fine of $300 to $1,000 would then be levied for each additional offense within that two-year period.