Missoula City Council bans vaping products despite significant backlash.
Missoula, Montana, is officially the first city to prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarette and vape products. The Missoula City Council narrowly passed the ordinance banning the sale of all flavored vaping products and requiring retailers to keep tobacco products behind the counter, so they are inaccessible to minors. Those who agree with the move believe Missoula’s candy and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes attract minors and encourage them to become addicted to nicotine. According to the 2019 Missoula County Youth Risk Behavior Survey, “more than 38-percent of local high school students said they had used an electronic vaping product in the past 30 days.”
A coalition of Montana physicians, parents, teachers and youth advocates had asked the city council for the ban, which included fruity flavors, menthol and mint products.
“Menthol and mint are probably one of the big reasons adults persist in smoking,” said retired Missoula pediatrician Dr. Kathy Rogers. “To see what’s happened in the last five years is terrifying for me because I know that for the kids, they’re so innocent in this, and they’re being fed a bill of goods.”
City Council representative Mirtha Becerra stated, “I believe that it will help protect, to the best of its ability, the health and safety of our youth by making it more difficult to access products that we know are causing a health epidemic.”
Robert Stenger is a family medicine doctor who is involved with the Missoula City-County Board of Health, said the ban is a start but there’s still some work to be done. He added, “Unfortunately the unintended consequence of leaving non-vaping flavor products available on the market is that we’re leaving those products that are most highly used by some of the most vulnerable kids in the community: children of color, LGBTQ youth and others use flavored products that aren’t vaping products in higher proportions than other kids.”
Retailers had strongly opposed the measure, saying it will only result in adult customer making purchases outside of Missoula or online, significantly reducing sales. And they also contended the move wasn’t necessary because it is already illegal for minors to purchase their products.
Keith Bowman owner of Missoula’s Ecig Vapor Juice shop, had fought against the measure, saying, “By passing this you are showing – not telling – showing people you care more about the city’s cigarette money than you do about their health. Do the right thing, committee. Kill this.”
The Montana Smoke Free Association, a trade group of fifteen vape shops, agreed with this, issuing a statement which read in part, “Missoula City says, loud and clear, by removing big tobacco products from the ban, that it’s OK if children get their hands on deadly tobacco products, as long as vaping products are banned. See you in court.”
Some members of the Missoula City Council have suggested an amended a proposal to decrease minors’ exposure to tobacco and e-cigarettes. Missoula City Councilor Mirtha Becerra explained, “Under the amended proposal self-service displays of flavored tobacco products would be prohibited and flavored vaping products would be banned altogether.”