• May 23, 2024

Maine Lawmakers Change Tobacco Bill to Save Shop

 Maine Lawmakers Change Tobacco Bill to Save Shop

The Maine House of Representatives passed LD 2157, sponsored by Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland. The bill would prohibit tobacco sales within 300 feet of schools, in an effort to prevent tobacco and nicotine addiction among children.

“At 300 feet, this would affect one existing business,” Moonen said on the House floor Tuesday night. “That business is in my district, this business sells tobacco within 26 feet of my school, and I would like that to stop.”

That business is Fresh Approach, located in Portland’s West End. It’s right across the street from the Reiche Elementary School, according to media reports.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, and in 30 years, I’ve yet to have a fourth grader come in here and try to buy a pack of cigarettes,” Chet Knights, owner of Fresh Approach, said. “It’s just kind of silly.”

He says Fresh Approach is primarily a neighborhood grocery store, but some people come in to grab a sandwich and a pack of cigarettes. If he is prohibited from selling tobacco, those customers will go elsewhere.

“When the construction guys come along, and they want to get a sandwich, a soda, and a pack of Marlboros, and they can’t get a pack of Marlboros, you’re gonna go down the street to the store with the big fancy signs,” Knights said, explaining that he does not advertise for tobacco products at his store. “For me, that business is just gone.”

On Friday, the Maine state Senate amended that bill, so stores could not obtain a tobacco license within 300 feet of schools, but they could renew a tobacco license if they already had one. This essentially grandfathers Fresh Approach in and allows them to continue to sell tobacco products.

The bill now goes back to the House.