If you walk into Westbrook Market on any given day, you’re going to be greeted with a nod and a smile from me or one of my team members. Since 2009, we’ve proudly provided our customers with groceries, home goods, seasonal items, beer, wine and tobacco. Our store near William Clarke Drive has managed to stay open thanks to our loyal customers, our can-do spirit and our hard-working employees. If group of uninformed state lawmakers gets their way and outlaw flavored tobacco sales in Maine, all of this may not be enough.

L.D. 1215 would ban convenience stores and smoke shops from selling all flavored tobacco products, including not just flavored e-vapor products but also menthol cigarettes, flavored smokeless tobacco, cigars and pipe tobacco. Sponsors and advocates of the bill claim this new attempt at prohibition will cause adult smokers to quit and young people to stop vaping. But it’s already illegal for stores like mine to sell any kind of tobacco to anyone under 21. On top of that, adults are using tobacco at the lowest rate in a generation thanks to education, smokeless alternatives and access to cessation products.

So what exactly are lawmakers hoping to achieve with this ban? It seems to me that some of our state policymakers are OK with sending my tobacco sales, and the taxes that go with, to our neighbors in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. They don’t seem to care about the devastating impact this law will have on my ability to pay for rent, equipment, jobs, health insurance and employee benefits.

Today in Maine, recreational marijuana stores and medical cannabis dispensaries open with great fanfare. If L.D. 1215 is passed into law, Westbrook Market will no longer be licensed to sell menthol cigarettes, flavored vapes or wintergreen snuff. And my medical cannabis dispensary neighbors down the street? They’ll be able to sell candy-flavored THC gummies, flavored marijuana buds and THC-filled vapes, night and day. Are you confused? I know I am. I can only imagine how young people are receiving these mixed messages. Grandpa’s vanilla pipe tobacco is bad, but Big Sister’s sour apple THC edibles are fine?

When Massachusetts banned menthol cigarettes in 2020, customers traveled to Maine to stock up. They still do. When Portland passed a local flavored tobacco ban, adult customers from the city came over to Westbrook to load up on flavored vapes. Prohibition has never worked and it never will. This latest attempt will devastate small businesses.

I started work in the convenience store business as a cashier, put myself through college and saved up enough money to buy land with my business partner to build our store. Fourteen years later, through hard work, the support of a pro-business city government, and by the grace of God, we have remained open.

As an independent small-business owner and the sole provider for my family, I’m deeply concerned by the state’s plans to ban the sales of a line of products that make up a significant amount of my revenue. I pray that our lawmakers reconsider – before it’s too late.

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