Council’s conversations with the community about the issue are ongoing, with the latest lasting several hours.
Wednesday’s meeting was the third time council members have publicly heard from small business owners and community members about the proposal. At the meeting, nearly 50 people signed up to speak on the ban – 28 in favor, 18 against it.
Seats for the public on both the first and second floors of Columbus City Council chambers were nearly full.
“We believe in the ban of flavored sales,” said one person in favor of the ban. “No disrespect to the vendors, but this is very harmful and it’s not the audience you’re trying to reach.”
“Banning flavored vapes is not the answer, taking these products away that have helped many adults quit smoking traditional cigarettes, deal with anxiety, or just use them for their personal pleasure,” said an opponent of the ban.
Speakers on both sides of the issue often received applause after their time at the podium. Several doctors spoke in favor of the proposal, citing the harmful effects of the products and the disproportional impact on the Black community.
A Columbus City Schools principal also wants the ban to pass.
“Students vape at recess, in the hallways, in the restrooms, and, believe it or not, sometimes in classrooms,” the principal said.
Many local business owners have said the ban would ruin their businesses, saying consumers would just go elsewhere to get flavored products or buy them illegally.
“I sincerely hope these meetings aren’t just for prohibition and we can put our collective heads together,” said one business owner. “We all have the same goal: to keep kids away from tobacco products.”
Based on feedback from the business community, Columbus Public Health also brought a proposal that would increase fines and punishments for retailers found selling to underage individuals.
“We are doing out 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.
Council is scheduling more conversations with small businesses about the proposal, one happening virtually on Nov. 16 and another in person on Nov. 30.