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Jason Davenport is the owner of Warmings Market in Brunswick. He is a volunteer supporter of the coalition Flavors Hook Kids Maine.
As the owner of Warmings Market in Brunswick, I am hopeful and optimistic that the town where I do business, and our state Legislature will vote to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in Maine.
I purchased Warmings Market about four years ago. Just before purchasing the market, the decision was made to stop selling all tobacco products. This includes cigarettes, pipes, cigars, vapes, e-cigarettes, Juuls and chewing tobacco.
Warmings Market is located within a couple of miles of Brunswick High School and about a half mile from Brunswick Middle School. While we would card anyone who would purchase anything that requires the buyer to be a certain age, we also understand how frequently people purchase things for younger people, despite the detriment to their health and safety. In addition to being close to middle and high schools, we are also close to a college campus. People can purchase things legally for younger friends. We know this can — and does — happen all the time.
Packaging of tobacco products — and in the case of flavored tobacco, the products themselves — are designed to appeal to younger people. With people starting to smoke or vape as young as 13 to 15 years old, we don’t need to be giving them the temptation when kids come into our store to buy snacks, drinks or lunch.
As a member of this community, our younger customers weighed heavily on our decision to not sell tobacco. Tobacco products are easily transportable. The use of flavored tobacco products can be masked more easily because the smell doesn’t stick to clothing as much as traditional cigarettes, even though both are addictive and potentially harmful.
Our customers are overwhelmingly supportive of our decision to not sell tobacco products. That doesn’t surprise me. It also doesn’t surprise me that about two-thirds of likely voters in Maine support a law to end the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide. Flavored tobacco products like Peppermint Mocha, Orange Soda and Banana Blast are being sold for e-cigarettes to hook younger people. It’s obvious. It’s simple. And it’s disgusting.
The people of Brunswick agree. At a Town Council meeting on Monday night, public testimony overwhelmingly favored ending the sale of flavored tobacco products in town. Councilors heard from students and public health representatives, school officials and medical professionals, substance abuse counselors and more. It is imperative that the Town Council end the sale of flavored tobacco products on April 18 when it comes to a vote. Brunswick town councilors have the chance to do what is right and protect our kids.
They won’t be alone, either.
Earlier this year the Portland City Council took matters into its own hands and ended the sale of flavored tobacco products within the city. The vote was unanimous. Several people spoke during the meeting about the reasons why Portland should take this step. For example, the tobacco companies have tried telling us that vaping is a harmless alternative to smoking. We now know that not to be true.
Bangor was the first community to enact a local ordinance ending the sale of flavored tobacco. If Brunswick does the right thing and listens to its pediatricians, parents and teachers, all three ordinances would go into effect on June 1.
The next logical step is to expand this policy statewide. There is a bill before the Legislature now, LD 1550, which would end the sale of flavored tobacco products throughout the state. This is good policy for Bangor. It’s good policy for Portland. It’s good policy for Brunswick. And it’s good policy for Maine.
I’m hopeful that our local legislative delegation will advocate for LD 1550 and vote yes to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in Maine. This would position our policymakers alongside councilors in Portland, Bangor and hopefully Brunswick to take a big step and do the right thing. I am contacting my local representatives to do just that, and I hope you will join me in doing so.