SOUTH PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Parents of South Portland middle school students are seeing red: red letters reading "Portland Smoke & Vape" near Mahoney Middle School.
Portland Smoke & Vape opened this fall at 585 Broadway in South Portland. Mahoney Middle School is visible from the shop's parking lot. According to its website, it's a family owned business with over 15 years of experience in the industry. There are two other locations in Portland and Portsmouth, N.H.
The business is licensed and operating legally. The proximity of the shop to the middle school has been the focus of concerns directed to the South Portland City Council.
Susan Henderson, South Portland city councilor-at-large, says she alone has heard less than a dozen complaints from people.
"This city has tried to put a lot of effort to encourage teens to not smoke, to not drink, to not use marijuana. It's kind of ironic that there's this big sign by the school, by the middle school," said Henderson.
Henderson submitted a request to conduct a city council workshop on vaping. If a fellow council member seconds that request, it will go on the workshop agenda. Henderson says she is confident the vaping workshop will be held and it could happen as soon as next month.
Kara Tierney-Trevor is a clinical social worker at South Portland High School and she has two children, one at the middle school. She says even though the store is geared towards adults, she is concerned how the signage could impact the mindsets of children, especially at a time when more teens are vaping.
"It's something that's a norm," she said. "It has become something more of a norm. So there's the park, there's the place where you get your coffee, there's the bank and there's the vape shop."
LeeAnne Dodge is the program director of SoPo Unite, All Ages All In, a federally funded substance use prevention coalition. She says vaping is harmful and can lead to use of traditional cigarettes.
"You look to the left, there's the big lettering and you look to the right," she explained what it's like driving by the shop and the middle school. "'Hey there's a middle school. Wow this is interesting that these are so close to each other.'"
An employee of Portland Smoke & Vape said they had not heard of the concerns about the proximity of the shop to the school and declined to comment further.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner declared youth vaping an "epidemic." According to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than two million middle school, high school, and college students reported using electronic cigarettes.