In this Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, a woman purchases a Powerball ticket from Leadbetter's Mini Stop in Bangor. Credit: Micky Bedell / BDN

In an effort to restrict access to flavored tobacco products, city leaders are  considering a misguided move that would eliminate these products from store shelves. To the uninformed, this may seem like a worthwhile idea; however, the facts don’t support the policy.

My brothers and I have operated convenience stores in Bangor for 26 years. We have eight stores and employ 85 people. Anti-tobacco advocates claim young people get vapes, cigarettes and chew from stores like ours. Not true. With a 94.5 percent Food and Drug Administration compliance rate, it’s clear tobacco retailers in Bangor are not selling directly to underage youth.

Beyond our ethical obligation to protect young people from age-restricted products, the penalty for selling to minors is steep, ranging from hefty fines to loss of license. Tobacco represents close to 40 percent of our business, so the risk is just too high to not take it seriously. We’ve invested thousands of dollars in age-verification technology to ensure we are compliant with the law and we have a zero-tolerance policy if any employee knowingly sells a tobacco product to a minor. Fortunately, it never happens.

Not only will a ban decimate more than 40 local businesses, but I think it will also have absolutely no impact on youth vaping. They’ll drive over city lines, buy from adults willing to break the law or go online. If councilors really believe Bangor has a problem, they should invest in education. Targeting law-abiding, responsible retailers with no history of selling to minors is irresponsible and destructive.

Jeff Leadbetter

President

Leadbetter’s Super Stops

Bangor

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