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Missoula City Council Will Re-Examine Flavored Tobacco Ban

A vape device with flavor liquids.
A vape device with flavor liquids.

A proposal to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Missoula goes back to committee for some fine-tuning. The Missoula City Council made that decision Monday night after some legal questions arose.

The proposed ordinance would ban the sale of all menthol, candy and mint flavored tobacco, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarette products. Missoula took up the idea after the state health department earlier this year offered and then pulled back a more limited state-wide proposal on banning flavored e-cigarette products.

Proponents of Missoula’s proposal say the products are designed to attract and ultimately hook young people on nicotine. But opponents say the ordinance would devastate local retailers, who point out they already only sell to adults over the age of 21. 

Critics also note that Montana's "Youth Access to Tobacco Products Control Act" prohibits local governments from making regulations more stringent than those already imposed by the state. 

That specific interpretation is echoed by Missoula’s city attorney.

Mirtha Becerra is a member of the city council’s Public Safety and Health Committee which will soon take a second look at the proposal.

Becerra tells MTPR the committee has no intention of watering the proposal down into a resolution with no legal weight behind it.

"The reason behind sending it back to committee is to ensure that we reinforce the ordinance, clarify some definitions, make sure that our data is the most up to date, but keeping it true to the north star, if you will, of that ordinance, which is preventing youth from getting addicted to a life of nicotine problems."

The committee will again discuss the proposal to ban flavored tobacco product sales in Missoula, next Wednesday, November 4. 

A public hearing before the full city council would follow on Monday, October 09. 

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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