The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday night to ban flavored tobacco products come June.
The ban came before the council over concerns that the tobacco industry targets vulnerable communities, particularly kids, people of color and the LGBTQ community.
Portland City Councilor Andrew Zarro, who came out at 17, shared his own experience, where he went to an event where they handed out menthol cigarettes.
“And I started smoking,” Zarro said. “And it didn’t … last forever, but it worked, and I remember … feeling like I needed it if I was going to be in the LGBT community.”
Out of 42 people who spoke Monday night, 26 were in favor of the ban. Portland smoke and vape store owners spoke to the council Monday night against the ban.
“There’s going to be a lot of people who are going to lose their jobs due to the drop in revenue from your various locations who sell these products in Portland, Maine,” Portland business owner Steve Ross said.
Others like business owner Christopher Jackson said they successfully used flavored tobacco to quit smoking. This is something Portland City Councilor Victoria Pelletier struggled with when making her decision.
“I don’t want to penalize adults for being adults and being able to use flavors,” Pelletier said. “But I also have to separate it and think, ‘Am I just thinking it’s bad policy, or am I acting in the best interest of the people that elected me?’”
The council said this ban is only a step in the right direction.
The council said this ban is only a step in the right direction. This makes Portland the second Maine city to ban flavored tobacco products, following in the footsteps of the Bangor City Council. The Bangor ban takes effect on June 1.