Sanford Springvale News

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Council Discusses Potential Flavored Tobacco Ban

Person Vaping

The Sanford School Department is concerned about the effects of vape use on Sanford youth.

Photo: Krystian-Graba via Pixabay.

By Renée Morin

After much discussion at its Feb. 6 meeting, the City Council appeared likely to ask the state to do something about the problem of widespread underage vaping, including by students in the Sanford school system. Councilors voted 5-1, with Councilor Jonathan Martell dissenting, to ask City Manager Steve Buck to draft a resolution to the state legislature in favor of a statewide ban on the popular products.

Concerns about flavored tobacco were initially discussed at the City Council’s Property Subcommittee last month. At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Buck reported on information he had gathered in response to the subcommittee’s questions. He identified six communities in Maine that have passed similar ordinances, as well as the definitions all of them used.

There were two main facets to this issue discussed at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Should sales of flavored tobacco be banned in Sanford?
  • Should the City Council express its support for a statewide ban to the Legislature?

Springvale resident Jonathan Mapes expressed confusion about why this topic was being brought up at all. “I am here to say, why are you even discussing a menthol ban? Don’t you have better things to do?” he asked councilors.

Mapes said he thought vaping should be an issue for the state or federal government and said this would be an “anti-business” initiative on the part of the council. He brought up several other points, such as the prevalence of cannabis sellers in Sanford in recent years, and the fact that New Hampshire would likely continue to sell flavored tobacco, even if a state ban in Maine went into effect.

“At least don’t be first.” Mapes remarked to the council, referring to how Sanford would be one of only a handful of communities in the state to enact a ban. “Be at the end of the line for once.”

Councilor Ayn Hanselmann noted that the School Department has brought up concerns about the effects of vaping on Sanford youth. She added that her kids have confirmed to her that they have seen underage vape use at school.

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy, who has attended School Committee meetings on the issue, said that around 60% of students are vaping, and that a lot of this is taking place in school bathrooms.

Councilor Bob Stackpole said that the issue was a distraction from students’ education but thought a state response would be best.

Councilor Pete Tranchemontagne said he is concerned that vaping products are being marketed to American youth by foreign manufacturers. He said he doubts that a citywide ban would be effective in preventing underage vape use when a lot of youth are purchasing vape pens via the internet. He instead suggested that state or national action would need to be taken to solve the issue.

Martell and Councilor Nate Hitchcock requested more information from the School Department on the situation before seriously considering a ban.

While there was no consensus on the likelihood of a potential ban, all the councilors acknowledged the importance of the issue. Martell made a final comment at the meeting’s end, stressing the importance of viewing all sides of the issue before making a decision.

This issue is scheduled to be brought up again as an agenda item in the near future.

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