KEENE — Shop owners are angry after the Keene City Council passed a ban on tobacco and other nicotine product sales to people under the age of 21, saying the city is hurting small businesses.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Dan Cavallero, owner of Monadnock Vapors on Washington Street. “I think it’s the first step in making New Hampshire unrecognizable as the Live Free Or Die state.”
The ordinance, first proposed over the summer by Kate McNally with the Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities, bars anyone under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes and tobacco products as well as all e-cigarettes and vapor products containing nicotine. It went into effect immediately after its passage Thursday night.
Devon Tuz, with Lineage Vapors on Emerald Street, said the ordinance will hurt the business at the shop. A large section of Lineage customers are 18 to 20 years old, he said.
“I feel as though if your’e over the age of 18 you should be able to make your own decisions,” Tuz said.
Cavallero said the ban infringes on the right of people old enough to vote and serve in the military.
Keene is now the second city in New Hampshire to enact the under 21 ban on tobacco and vaping products, joining the city of Dover. Along with the passage of the city ordinance, the council voted to send a letter to Concord asking for a state law to ban under 21 sales everywhere in New Hampshire.
“I think Keene likes to be a trendsetter,” Cavallero said.
Roberta Mastrogiovanni at The Corner News on Main Street said the ban makes no sense, and no one she’s talked to in the city wants it.
“I’m pretty upset about it,” Mastrogiovanni said.
Mastrogiovanni said she’s tried to be a responsible seller of tobacco and e-cigarettes. The council’s vote is another in a long line of problems in the city for small business owners, she said. Mastrogiovanni has been in business in Keene for more than 20 years.
“It hasn’t been a very small business friendly place since I’ve been a small business owner,” she said.
Cavallero, who has another vape shop in Lebanon and is opening a third in Hinsdale, said he’s done investing in Keene. He plans to keep his shop on Washington Street, but between the high taxes and burdensome city regulations he does not see trying any new ventures in Keene.
“If you’re someone who’s about to take a risk, if you’re a young entrepreneur, do not go to Keene,” Cavallero said.