- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — An ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco used in electronic smoking devices could be ready for a Council vote in May.
“Last night was the night to sort of nail it down in order to set the process for a first reading,” Mayor Claude Morgan said Wednesday about the City Hall workshop on the ordinance.
While councilors basically agreed on the text of the ordinance drafted by Corporation Counsel Sally Daggett, they have asked her to research and possibly revise elements, including an assurance that adults would not be able to give the flavored nicotine cartridges to minors.
Daggett has also been asked to research more about definitions in ordinances in Chicago, New York City, and Providence, Rhode Island that are the template for what is proposed in South Portland.
The ordinance will be discussed again in a March 21 workshop, and Morgan said the city must give licensed tobacco retailers 30 days’ notice of a first reading before councilors can take up the ordinance for a vote.
By its terms, the ordinance would ban any sales of additives “other than the taste or aroma of tobacco, menthol, mint or wintergreen,” to buyers of any age in the city after Sept. 1.
“The key provision is very simple, one sentence long,” Daggett said.
The extended deadline would provide retailers a chance to sell existing inventory and a time to educate them about the new ordinance, Daggett said.
While the mayor expects the ordinance to be moved from the workshop after March 21, the notification requirement pushes a first reading back to late April at the earliest.
Although councilors will be working on the municipal and education budgets at that time, Morgan said there is a sense of urgency in banning the sale of the flavored products because they make the electronic devices more attractive to minors.
“There seems to be a consensus in the council this is a public health and public safety issue,” he said.
Councilors stopped short of suggesting an entire ban on the sale of electronic smoking devices, in part because Daggett said the proposed ordinance is patterned on those that have already withstood legal challenges.
Because any substantive revision to an ordinance after its first reading would automatically send it back to a council workshop, Morgan said it is likely there will be no amendment offered to ban the devices outright.
A focal point for councilor and public comment is the Portland Smoke & Vape Shop on Broadway near Ocean Street, diagonally across the intersection from Mahoney Middle School.
“It is lowbrow, it is terrible for the community,” Shannon Bennett said about the presence of the shop.
Store co-owner Anthony Scott said he also wants more discussion with city officials and the public about the store and what it offers.
By state law, no tobacco products can be sold to anyone younger than 21, and Broadway Variety owner Rose West said councilors should be talking to store owners in this process.
“We do a lot to be proactive in our community, and I feel you have not done enough to reach out to us,” she said of their work to prevent sales to minors.
Morgan said the flavored product ban could be followed by land use revisions to create buffers on where electronic smoking devices could be sold, but the changes would not affect Portland Smoke & Vape’s location.
A ban on selling flavored nicotine inserts placed in electronic smoking devices is under consideration by South Portland councilors.