Tobacco smoking - Smoking cessation
The town council is considering a ban on the sale of flavored smokeless tobacco product. Photo: Lindsay Fox

JACKSON, Wyo. — The town council tonight will consider a ban on the sale of flavored smokeless tobacco products—a measure heralded by local health officials but one garnering increased resistance from the business community.

First reading of Ordinance Q (Flavored Vape Product Prohibition) is scheduled for today’s regular meeting of the council. Since a workshop in late April, the council has debated how the ordinance draft would look and who it would apply to.

The ban has been received support from local health officials including Beverly Shore (Community Prevention Specialist with Teton County), Heather Franklin (Prevention and Outreach Coordinator and Substance Abuse Therapist with Curran-Seeley), and Jodi Radke (Director of the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains Region of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids).

Opposition to Ordinance Q

Recently, however, pushback from retailers and some individual users has asked the council to consider a less aggressive approach.

“Maverik is supportive of stopping the sales of underage tobacco purchases, and also supported Tobacco 21 legislation in all eleven states where we operate…but this ordinance overreaches,” wrote Holly P. Robb, Director of Government Relations/Licensing with Maverik stores in an email to town leaders. “The main concern should be with the rise in underage vaping, not selling a legal product that adults can purchase.”

Robb asked for a delay of any decision until her company could better understand the ordinance and how it would impact retailers in Jackson.

Local business owner George Dykes also petitioned the town to hold off on Ordinance Q, calling it “overreaching and unnecessary.”

“I want to express my strong opposition to the proposed ordinance to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the Town of Jackson. I am deeply disappointed this is even under consideration,” Dykes wrote the council. “We elected you to manage our town not dictate every aspect of our personal lives. This proposed effort would completely take our legal rights as an adult to purchase flavored tobacco.”

Opposition also comes in the form of individuals who have successfully kicked the smoking habit only through the use of e-cigarettes. Councilman Jim Stanford has also voiced concern that barring adults from the purchase of certain vaping products could have a deleterious effect on some former smokers still trying to kick the habit.

“As a former cigarette smoker for years, I attempted to quit many times but was unsuccessful. I was introduced to Vape devices at the local cigar lounge, Tobacco Row, as an alternative to get rid of the cigarette smoke.  It has been the only way I was able to stop smoking cigarettes,” said Jeni W. in a comment to the town council. “I understand the concern with kids using this product, but hope the council finds an alternative way to help stop the sales of these products to youth instead of banning this product for all, including adults.”

Proponents of Ordinance Q

Heather Franklin has watched the devastating effect e-cigarettes have had on the teen population of Teton County. She blamed a billion-dollar industry ‘Big Tobacco’ for “creating an epidemic rise in the number of teens using tobacco products in the last four years.”

Franklin stated: “e-cigarettes have been the most common tobacco product used by youth in the U.S. since 2014. In 2016 the Surgeon General’s Executive Summary of E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults stated the majority of youth use a flavored tobacco product when they try e-cigarettes for the first time. In 2018, the FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb M.D., expressed alarm over the growing number of youth using flavored tobacco products.”

Last year, the Surgeon General posted an advisory on the rise of e-cigarette use among youth, blaming slick marketing and “kid-friendly flavors” as reasons youth are attracted to vaping.

Beverly Shore agrees, zeroing in on the dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical released when smoking tobacco.

“An undeveloped brain is the perfect target and gateway to nicotine addiction. Hence, the development of enticing tobacco flavored products luring children and hooking a long-time consumer for tobacco products,” Shore said.

An estimated 15,000 individual, unique flavors are now available for vapers. Shore has seen the influence of flavored smokeless tobacco in Teton County and particularly in public schools.

“Your support will save lives and will impact countless Jackson teenagers currently addicted to nicotine, along with potential new targets for tobacco use,” she said.