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Montana Legislature Votes To Block Local Vape Bans

Vaping devices sitting next to their product box.
John Adams
Montana Free Press

A bill that would stop local governments in Montana from enacting bans on sales of flavored vaping products is making its way to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.

The Legislature advanced the policy after Missoula's city council passed a local ban on the products because of health concerns. MTPR's Freddy Monares reports.

If Gianforte signs the bill, local governments like Missoula will not be able to enforce ordinances prohibiting the sale of flavored vapes or alternative nicotine products.

Missoula approved a ban on flavored vape products in November, but deferred implementation of the ordinance until May 1 to see how the Legislature would respond to the issue.

Rep. Mike Hopkins (R) - Missoula, carried the bill in the House. He said local governments that have banned the sale of flavored vape products exceeded their jurisdiction and harmed the state’s economy.

“I think that local governments have a place when it comes to regulation, and Senate Bill 398 marks that out pretty well with reasonable regulations.”

Hopkins said that the Legislature is the place to rein in local governments that have overstepped their jurisdictions.

Missoula City Councilwoman Mirtha Becerra called the passage of the bill “incredibly disappointing,” saying the Legislature is prioritizing profits and the wellbeing of the economy over the health of the state’s youth.

“I think for a lot of the legislators, the health of the economy is paramount and sometimes takes precedent over the health of our youth ,” she said.

Becerra says teachers, parents and professionals in the medical field called on the city council to take action on what she called a “vaping epidemic.” She said the Legislature took away local governments’ ability to respond to health concerns.

She says that the city council will figure out what it can do and amend the ordinance to fit within the guidelines of the bill.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Freddy Monares
Freddy Monares is a reporter and Morning Edition host at Montana Public Radio. He previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, covered the 2017 Legislature for UM Legislative News Service and interned with the station as a student. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in 2017.