COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus City Council is set to vote this week on a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products within city limits, a topic that has received a lot of attention from those both for and against the ban.
“If we are adults, you cannot tell adults what to do and what not to do,” said Ben Saleh, owner of Epic Puff, a vape and tobacco shop on North High Street. “This is their lives.”
Saleh said he hopes the ban does not go through because if it does, the business will be forced to close.
Epic Puff opened in October. Shortly after, Saleh said he learned of the proposed ban.
According to Saleh, 80 percent of the shop’s sales will disappear if flavored tobacco products are pulled from the shelves, and if that’s the case, he and other small business owners will keep fighting.
“We will get together and maybe file a class action lawsuit,” he said. “And see where cause I mean, if I’m going to lose $200,000 in my investment alone, in addition to $200,000 or so in landlord fees for the remaining of the lease, imagine everybody. And we are talking in the millions here.”
Those in favor of the proposed ban said that flavored tobacco products disproportionately impact communities of color and children.
The ban proposed by Columbus Public Health details the 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, according to 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,” Roberts said previously.
City council will vote on the proposal at its meeting Monday beginning at 5 p.m. at Columbus City Hall. If approved, the ban would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.