HELENA – The Helena City Commission has passed the first draft of an ordinance to keep tobacco-flavored products away from children.
People on both sides of the issue showed up to a public hearing Monday night to discuss the proposal, which would prohibit stores from selling tobacco-flavored products, unless they’re only open to people 18 and older.
It would also ban self-service displays, where customers can access tobacco without help from the retailer.
The City-County Board of Health has unanimously endorsed the idea, saying it will protect children.
But many local convenience store owners and managers at the meeting said they’re worried about losing money.
“For you, it’s a decision about what’s right for your kids,” said Mary Staigmiller, a district manager for Town Pump. “But for me, it’s a $1.2 million decision a year.”
The Lewis and Clark County health officer spoke in favor of the ordinance, with her son standing next to her at the podium.
“Tonight, the city has an opportunity to take a stand and send a very clear message: that we care about our youth, and we’re here to protect their health,” said Drenda Neimann.
Since they decided to move forward, commissioners could approve a final version in as little as two weeks.