COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Council is considering a ban on flavored tobacco products.
Some small business owners are worried about what this ban could mean for their future.
“A ban on flavors would shut down all of our stores,” said John Scott, manager of Vaporfi. “We have long term leases in our stores and almost 30 employees that we’d have to lay off. So it would definitely be detrimental to our business and our employees financially.”
The ban, first proposed by Columbus Public Health and the Coalition to End Tobacco Targeting, points to the dangers of flavored tobacco products for minority and youth populations. Many of these products, the ban claims, specifically target the Black community.
2018 statistics from Columbus Public Health show that 100,000 of the city’s 160,000 smokers were Black. Of those Black smokers, 60,000 used menthol and mint-flavored products.
“Those are stark numbers that we cannot just disregard,” said Councilwoman Shayla Favor, the housing, health, and community services committee chair. “Just the sheer number of folks in the city of Columbus that smoke cigarettes. These are systemic issues.”
Favor also pointed to the oversaturation of tobacco retail licenses in the city limits — with Columbus having more than 800.
Some business owners are proposing something other than a ban.
“We feel adults should have the rights to choose what they consume,” Scott says.
The proposed ban is in the conversation phase and city council wants the community’s input.
“We are not being facetious, we are not disregarding anyone’s voice,” said Favor. “That’s why we started this conversation with our residents in the community.”
Small business owners and anyone wanting to learn more about the proposed ban at can attend a meeting at Driving Community Center Wednesday. There will also be a public hearing next Wednesday, Nov. 9. Two more planned meetings are scheduled for Nov. 16 & 30.
You can also provide feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.