COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus City Council held another hearing on Thursday for a proposed ban on flavored tobacco products.

The ban proposed by Columbus Public Health details dangers of flavored tobacco products targeting minority and youth populations, specifically the Black community. More than a quarter of the city’s population are smokers, with cigarette smoking costing Ohio $8.6 billion in health care costs, said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.

“Four out of the five leading causes of death in Columbus are exacerbated by tobacco or e-cigarette use,” said Roberts.

One version of the proposal would ban flavored tobacco products beginning Jan. 1, 2024. In addition, the ordinance changes the retail license fee from $150 to $350 and changes the civil penalties for retail violations to the following:

  • $1,000 for the first offense.
  • $2,500 for the second offense.
  • $5,000 and loss of license for remainder of licensing cycle and the next cycle.

However, the exact start date and penalties are subject to change as Columbus legislators continue negotiating the proposal’s specifics.

Other public commenters asked for an exception to the ban specifically for hookah bars. The lounge-style businesses commonly use a form of tobacco called shisha, which can have flavoring as customers inhale it from a large device.

Throughout the hearings, small business owners said the ban would be detrimental to their businesses.

“A ban on flavors would shut down all of our stores,” said John Scott, manager of Vaporfi, during a meeting on Nov. 1. “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 council has been holding ongoing conversations with the community. During a meeting on Nov. 9, nearly 50 people signed up to speak on the ban — 28 in favor, 18 against it.

“We are doing our best to educate, to listen, to learn, and then to hear from advocates on both sides about how this issue impacts them,” said Columbus Councilmember Shayla Favor.