[OPINION] Westport Mom: Boycott Stores That Promote Vaping

An alert — and concerned — “06880” reader writes:

The other day my daughters and I walked by the Merritt Country Store. The small shop sells food, candy, cigarettes, magazines, lottery tickets — and all kinds of vaping cartridges. The most well-known are Juuls.

We were on our way to Coffee An’, one of our favorite places in town. I noticed the bright, bold posters in the windows of the Merritt store. All but one advertised vaping. All are placed at children’s eye level.

Ads at the Merritt Country Store. The one on the left is for lottery tickets; all the others are for Juuls.

It reminded me of a great presentation that Dr. Ruth Potee gave recently at Staples High School about drug and alcohol use. She described the e-cigarette campaigns that companies utilize to advertise directly to kids.

They use bold, colorful print to draw attention to products in an effort to get kids attracted, and addicted, early.

There’s even a term for this generation of nicotine-addicted children: “Nic Kids.” There may be fewer smokers in this generation, but nicotine use via e-cigarettes or vaping, is clearly on the rise.

According to former FDA Director Scott Gottlieb — a Westport resident — 3.6 million teenagers (middle and high school students) vaped in 2017. That’s a 40% increase since 2011.

Companies market kid-appealing flavors, such as “fruity” vape cartridges (Juul) via online ads, and cool colorful posters in store windows where kids buy candy, gum and soda,

The federally mandated warnings tell one story. The colorful graphics and alluring text tell quite another.

Teenagers’ developing brains quickly become addicted to nicotine via e-cigarettes and other pod-based nicotine delivery systems. E-cigarette use affects brain development, lungs and future addictive behavior.

A new FDA report connects e-cig devices and vaping with seizures.

As the mother of 3 children, I speak openly about addiction and the undermining of their brains by means of these “ends” (electronic nicotine delivery systems).

I urge every adult to avoid patronizing any store that advertises these drugs to our kids. The only ones who benefit are the drug companies and the stores that advertise and sell their products.

Our kids pay the price.

70 responses to “[OPINION] Westport Mom: Boycott Stores That Promote Vaping

  1. The town should put this store owner on notice that this is not acceptable…what kind of a son of a bitch does it take to run such ads in a store window at “kids’ eye level”?

    • Samouel Martin

      The new liquor store that opened there also has a ton of signs all over town in grass, these should also be addressed by the town

  2. John Hartwell

    Are these products age-restricted? If so, there’s a potential enforcement issue here.

    • Kristin Schneeman

      They are, like tobacco products, only to be sold to those 18+, so there may be an enforcement issue (and I have asked the Country Store owners on more than one occasion if they check ID when selling these products). While I support the movement by more states and localities to raise the age of purchase to 21, enforcement issues would presumably continue to exist. While at FDA, Dr. Gottlieb prioritized this issue in a big way, and I believe more regulation of the advertising of these products is on the way. I do think patrons expressing their concerns to store owners is important. And by the way, I’ve noticed increasing numbers of displays of CBD oil products in stores, which while perfectly legal, are highly unregulated and almost certainly a harbinger of recreational marijuana legalization in CT, contributing to the normalization of the substance, especially among young people.

  3. Seth Braunstein

    Hi Dan –

    As a follow up to this post, Lou Mall and I recently introduced an ordinance to the RTM to ban the sale of any and all tobacco/vaping products to anyone under the age of 21. There are lots of data that suggests teen smoking/vaping has reached epidemic levels. Currently there are 7 other towns in CT that have already enacted similar bans and we are seeking to be the 8th. The ordinance is working its way through the approval process but we’re hopeful that we can have these restrictions in place shortly. Teen vaping is a problematic behavior that should be addressed nationally or failing that, on a statewide basis. As a local community, we can take action to help make it more difficult and this ordinance should help accomplish that.


    Seth Braunstein RTM Representative – District 6


  4. Bart Shuldman

    We lived near this store and the owners are very nice. It is also very convenient if you need something quick, they stock a lot of items.

    Instead of trying to shut them down, have you gone into the store to speak with them about the concern? Instead of using threat (Trump era) trying speaking with them to get their attention and ask if they will remove the signs.

    While people in Westport want more mom and pops, this will clearly drive one out of Westport.


    Bart Shuldman

    • Matt Bannon

      I tend to agree with almost all your post but on this one you had me until Trump era.

    • Richard Fogel

      the epa is polluting the USA. More mercury is allowed out of smoke stacks. Thats good for children Trump voters. More coal ash is allowed to be dumped in rivers. More drilling is allowed in formerly protected areas. Guns are advertised in magazines and brochures sent to our homes. Come on Trump people. You asked for for it. You deserve it. Make America Great Again. Everything for the pursuit of money is on the table . Its his store and if he is following the law its fine. This Buds for you. We have liquor all over town.. Large display signs of liquor for all to see in living color and on tv are out there. This Buds for you Free and open markets. The market will police itself. AKA Larry Kudlow of Ridgefield and Washington,aka The regun lican party. Agent Orange is the best

      • Bob Stalling

        Right…. It’s the Trump people that smoke, drink and shoot!
        Cigarettes, Beer, Liquor and Guns would never have existed if it weren’t for Trump…especially in Westport!

        • Richard Fogel

          no, its free and open markets that is the re gun lican party platform. We need more guns. Arm the teachers. The NRA is great and Broke A Hontas keeps his independence from the NRA and Putin. Shopuldnt every one have a few assault rifles at home? Sure. They are wonderful instruments in helping the USA stay safe. Good for church,synagogue,our schools and our police department. Ask a policeman. Agent Orange, Broke A Hantas has nothing to do with the aforementioned. After all Agent Orange, Broke A Hontas is a stable genius who is Vibrant and Young. What abs. What a BUTT

      • Dermot Meuchner

        President Creamcicle loves it!!

    • Totally agree with you. We love this store in our neighborhood, my kids ride their bikes there all the time to buy snacks and candy. Please speak to the owner directly. The people who work there are so nice and I’m sure they would listen. Let’s please not shut this small store down too.

      • Samouel Martin

        I agree! There are very few stores in town left because of actions like this. If we are going to enforce such actions, then why not boycott liquor stores in the area too? A huge wine store just opened next door and this isn’t an issue given the drunk driving incidents in our area?

    • Samouel Martin

      Agreed- tabacco is not illegal and removing small businesses from our town isn’t something we want to do

    • Bart, since you know them so well and like them so much, why don’t YOU go in and tell them to get with the program and stop being so opportunistic.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Dan-I will be speaking with the owners. I have been to their store many many times over the decades and plan to speak with them. While they are not breaking any law they should respond to the concerns of Westporters.

        I find it very sad that so many will post on 0688” yet comment this store should be avoided or shut down. Why would anyone want to open a so called mom and pop if they will be treated in this fashion.

    • Bart, if you like ’em so much and they are so nice, why don’t YOU go in and ask ’em to shape up and quit the opportunistic window display?

      • Richard Fogel

        Maybe they say thank you when they take Westports money. Thats nice???Free and open markets.

  5. I agree with almost everything this very well informed and concerned mother wrote. But before you actually boycott the store, please go in and talk to the owner. He is in the store most days. I have been patronizing the Merritt Country Store for many years and the owner and the store (until recently) have been good members of the community. However, not too long ago when I was in the store, I noticed on the shelf behind the counter drug paraphernalia— bongs etc. I asked the owner why he was selling those things in our community and asked him to stop. He said his it was his nephew’s idea. I asked him to please stop selling those things but unfortunately they are still bring sold. I think if enough people take a minute to go into the store and ask the owner to stop selling items that can hurt our young people he will hopefully listen. If not, then I agree that a boycott is in order. But before he gets run out of business I urge people to talk to him.

    • John F. Suggs

      Done Lyn! I stuck my head in this morning and politely asked the man at the counter if they would please stop selling the bongs and stop advertising Vape’s to kids. I mentioned that I saw this on 06880 and he nodded saying that he has heard from other 06880 readers as well and would relay my request to his boss.

      • Mark L Yurkiw

        The issue is Nicotine an Addictive Drug is being sold. The novelty paraphernalia dilutes the real issue and is not germane to the problem

  6. Lauren Schiller

    Have you spoken to the business owner regarding the signs? Maybe they would consider taking them down? We have very little mom and pop shops remaining in town why are we trying to drive them out when they might agree to remove the advertisements from their window. As a mother of 2 young children it’s important to make them aware, if its not an advertisement in a store window, it will be something else. Most likely their peers.

  7. Mark Yurkiw

    Hallelujah, finally people are beginning to see what’s going on. Let me fill you in on the meat of the issue. The addictive drug NICOTINE was delivered to the public by the tobacco companies through cigarettes. Cigarettes made people sick but NICOTINE doesn’t. Since Big Tobacco lost its future income stream from smokers it replaced it by delivering NICOTINE another way. The bottom line is; follow the money. Nicotine has avoided the stigma of damaging your health so the FDA can’t find a reason to ban it. (lobbyists made sure of that). What I find truly incredulous is that an ADDICTIVE substance can skirt being regulated to the public! It is without any doubt that NICOTINE is addictive. The tobacco industry is effectively ENSLAVING children Physically and Financially through addiction to NICOTINE and no one can stop them because they can’t prove it is harmful. This needs to be corrected, the harm is obvious but money is the tobacco industries addiction we can’t seem to prevent. Do something! write to every elected official and ask them why we can’t stop companies from selling ADDICTION to the public and especially our children. Somebody, please tell me I’m wrong.

    • Richard Fogel

      by the time we do something society will be hurt. Opiods, liquor,cigarettes,global warming, Monsanto Round Up, EPA rollbacks on almost every toxin are already having their affects. Agent Orange making America Great Again. Enjoy it. USA deserves it. Free and open markets . Good for your children.

      • Mark Yurkiw

        …..so, we should roll over and play dead because we already are? I understand you are depressed and feel hopeless, do something, anything, to change that. Only YOU can.

    • Dermot Meuchner

      You forgot the nicotine companies also dosed our kids with ridiculous amount’s of sugar. Yeah, sugar. No joke , they owned companies that produced stuff like Kool-Aid , Tang , and various other sugary drinks. Real humanitarian’s these folks.

  8. Raymond F Skidgell

    Here we go again..first ospreys,now markets selling products we don’t support. Lynch mob mentality..wow..and it’s our Presidents fault once again! How about educating children at an early age about risks of such behavior?

    • Richard Fogel

      agent orange is polluting the world. Period. Its not Uranium 20,Clinton, Obama, Susan Rice, Peter Strozk and Page. It is agent orange and his power. Enjoy it. Good for our planet. Good for our children. Wonderful steward of the earth,mother nature and Gods creation. We are educated. That dodes not matter to agent orange. What is Israels position on Global Warming? Ask an orthodox Jew Jew or rabbi. I have. Their response is they dont know. With all the scientists and studies and education on global warming,studies on addiction and the Sackler Family Purdue Pharma,and roll backs on pollutioon. all the studies in the world dont do squat to help us with agent orange at the wheel. He is driving under the influence of money. DUIM. DUIM. DUIM. Israel did not leave the Paris agreement. Israel is engaged on global warming. Their agriculture depends on it. USA military and Pentagon acknowledges climate change as a major threat to homelad security. Getting back to pur local store ,the republican economic principle that governs it is a free and open market. The market will police itself. Enjoy it. The USA deserves it. Your children deserve it. Evangelicals deserve it. God Bless the USA

      • Dermot Meuchner

        Richard have your read Yuval Noah Hariri? Now he can depress you but at least he’s entertaining.

  9. Marina Almadaza

    I couldn’t agree more. I also heard Dr. Potee speak on numerous occasions and even had my kids join me at her last presentation at the Wilton Library. The country store in question is in walking distance from me and I am very tempted to make a visit and talk to them about the disservice they are providing through their tempting advertisements and sales of these products. Thank you for raising the awareness!

    • Richard Fogel

      will you go into all the liquor stores with big signs attracting attention? Why single out vaping? Free and Open markets. Re gunlicans say the market will please I mean police itself.

  10. Michelle Benner

    I completely agree! I went into this store this past fall to specifically tell the owner I would never patronize his store as long as he was selling and advertising these addictive substances to kids and teens. His only excuse for his advertising methods were that they are legal. I believe these kinds of merchants and this kind of advertising are a scourge to our community and should be openly rejected.

    • Michelle Benner

      By the way, even if this is a well liked local store whose workers are nice to your kids, don’t believe for one second the owner cares about you or the health of your family. As long as he keeps those juul signs in his window and all of that crap within easy reach of your kids, he’ll choose money over morality every time. I also agree that we must do our best as families and as a community to educate ourselves and our children, but that doesn’t mean we should accept this kind of blatant underage drug dealing to from adults to the children of our community.

    • Samouel Martin

      Agreed some recommendations can be made at a legislative level to mitigate the ads.
      Why are we blaming the stores for selling legal items? Liquor is bad , smoking is bad, eating donuts are bad for you as well? in that case , the whole shopping center should be closed? We as parents need to take responsibility in parenting and educating our children better as well

  11. Daryl Styner, D.D.S.

    While boycotting that premises is a great suggestion…if every person who is going to do that, informed the owner of the action they are taking and why, and their intent to spread the word, that action might evoke the desired result more effectively. Go for it!

    These are exactly like tobacco products. Just re-packaged.

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Before they could sell this shit to kids they had to sell it to adults. Look in the mirror. Trump is selling it in his casinos/hotels. McConnell represents big tobacco in Kentucky. Biden vapes women’s hair from behind. Which is worse? Nancy vapes turds on the sidewalk in San Francisco. Christine Blasey Ford will testify that Kavanaugh was vaping while raping at Yale. I wonder if Beto and/or AOC has ever vaped. Let’s have Mueller dig into it.

  13. Nancy Austin

    Why jump to boycotting as the first action? Concerned mother and others should go talk to the owner and politely and calmly explain the issue. Give the owners a chance to understand the concerns and make changes. I’ll be looking forward to hearing the outcome.

    • Yes! Please do not just jump to trying to shut them down without giving them the chance to make changes.

      • Danny Amore

        They already removed it. IMMEDIATELY. The concerned mother didn’t even bother to enter the store to complain? She would’ve received instant gratification with the removal right in front of her.

        BUT NO … she put the store on full blast. I have a suspicion that this mother perhaps worries the fact that they’re Muslim. There’s no other logical explanation.

  14. Mark L Yurkiw

    I’m amazed at how many are missing the most important issue. It’s not the store that is the problem. The problem is it’s LEGAL to sell an addictive DRUG= NICOTINE. The only answer is to regulate this addictive substance.
    Even if you stop this store from selling it to your kids, the next store down the street will. Put your ire & energy toward stopping nicotine from being in the OTC (over the counter) market place

  15. Mark L Yurkiw

    if you truly want to do something productive; Take your problem to your elected officials, state and local . That’s the ONLY place that it will count. The store owner is NOT your problem. Just Google who they are and how to reach them. Your calls (or I should say enough of them) WILL make a difference.
    Call State Senator Will Haskell, Westport Rep. Johnathan Steinberg, etc.and and ask them to keep you informed about what they are doing about it and how YOU can best help prevent OTC selling of Nicotine.

  16. Samouel Martin

    Agreed , there should be some legislative mandates around sales or advertising which hasn’t been done yet and penalizing a small business isn’t the right answer
    There are over 10 liquor stores which are small businesses in a small town of ours but that hasn’t been an issue for anyone given all the drunk driving around the area. We cant go around as a community and boycott everything

    -Practical resident

  17. Peter Hirst

    Kudos to Dan for presenting this politely, civilly and generously. Forgive me if I fail to maintain that standard. If you think the storefront is offensive, you should see the website. It brags of providing all your basic necessities, represented of course by ice cream and magazines. The only other line of necessities represented is vapes, featuring, of course “Phix”, which says it all. The most telling sign on either the storefront or the website is not in the windows, but the one over the door. Rarely does a business making this claim live up to it.

  18. Vaping companies need to re-evaluate their marketing strategies. However, I don’t agree with those who are scrutinizing the store and owner itself.

    How can a business control what your child’s actions?

    • Mark L Yurkiw

      No, they don’t need to evaluate marketing strategies they need to remove the nicotine… an addictive drug

  19. Gene Borio

    The rapid uptake and addicton of teenagers to e-cigs, and targeted marketing by e-cig companies is a HUGE issue, alarming many local communities (and the FDA). You can get news items on the issue here:

  20. As a number of neighbors sang the praises of the store and the store owner, I want to offer a different prospective: he may not be what he seems – friendly to you, but he put on a different face when I and my kids walked in. He started to shout as my girl touched this or that item in the store, showed quite apparently that we weren’t welcomed there.

    The store should be boycotted for the insidious advertising, better still if it is shut down.

    • Jack Thomas

      Very disturbing that many people would like to see the store shut down, driving people out of jobs

      • Matt Bannon

        Agree 100 percent

        I surprised they don t want to boycott our sweet coffee An’s… Donuts, sugar child obesity and diabetes… who’s next on the list ???.. the library for providing reading material that might offend some??

        Let’s spend the energy educating the youth on the perils of nicotine and if underage try diciplining them rather than buying them an addicted iPhone…

        • Samouel Martin


          There seems to be some ulterior reasons for some of these comments as they are spilling into the previous article as well. It’s sad residents would go out of their way to tarnish someone’s livelihood.

        • Richard Fogel

          education? Like regunlican party on global warming? What is Israels position on global warming? Hoax? Made up? what is our pentagons view? Insurance companies view? Why are we moving our military airports? Education is for the elites. Losers Look at all the educated at Agent Orange rallys. Charlootsville scholars.

          • Bart Shuldman

            You want to explain your mention of Israel? How that just entered this conversation?

  21. So sad to read this about the quaint store that’s been there forever that was for families in the neighborhood — different incarnation called Merritt Superette back in the 60’s. . Life gets more and more difficult it seems — more simple if you can take the time machine back. This little store seems to be a fixture in Westporters’ lives whether it’s 2019 or 1964. It was such a friendly, homey place run by very nice people as I remember back in the 60’s.

    We kids walked or rode our bikes to the store by ourselves even as 6 year olds to buy some treats and cool toys in the early and mid 60’s. Or we picked up fresh donuts from next door on the weekend that we placed in our bike baskets to run home to our family — sugar isn’t the healthiest but we were all skinny active kids and our parents were skinny too– not sure how that would go over these days. The rage for us back then were candy necklaces, wax lips, wax bottles with sweet colored liquid and fire balls. Something I would never allow my own children to have.

    I know Merritt Superette sold cigarettes and cigars back then from behind the counter to adults. I remember that well. Smoking was glamorized and we kids were sold on how cool it was with endless enticing TV commercials about all of the different brands – I can still remember the jingles of many of them. We bought candy cigarettes from Merritt Superette and pretended to smoke them. Now that seems so innocent compared with what is happening now. And surprise, surprise, sadly, we did smoke some as teens and I’m just glad it never developed into a life long habit. I wish we would stop pushing these harmful substances and habits on to our children.

  22. More disturbing is a store skirting rules to lure kids to addictive products.

    We welcome businesses to town – but only the responsible ones which would be a constructive rather than destructive force for the community, right?

    I don’t patronize that store anymore, but I do go to Coffee An often. I don’t want my kids to see those posters.

    • Sam Martin

      Be careful, kids might get addicted to coffee

      • Mark L Yurkiw

        It’s clear you don’t understand; addictive substances permanently change your brain chemistry, it’s not about things you like or what affects you in ways you like. Nicotine is a life long addiction some say is as hard to break as Opioids. Please don’t minimize what you don’t understand.

  23. Ray Finkle Jr

    Westporters again showing their true colors. How dare someone sell legal items that we don’t like. Let’s boycott the store and force another small business out since there’s so many of them left here. If you’re afraid your child will try everything they see advertised on bright colors at “kids eye level” maybe you should be a better parent.

    • Danny Amore

      Perhaps the underlying reason is the fact that the owner/staff are Muslim?

  24. Jeff Arciola

    I agree with Ray. Kids in Westport have bigger issues than reading a sign in a store. Do you boycott stores and gas stations that sell tabacco product and rolling papers that are eye level. Do you drink liquor in front of your kids. I mean come on new westporters be better parents and stop blaming society for yours and your child’s problems.

    • Being a better parent means cleansing the environment rather than turning a blind eye. “Chains are so light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken”. So many are slaves of corporatism that they yield to every malfeasance, and blame everyone who voiced an opposition in the name of personal responsibility. Laughable!

      • Bart Shuldman

        Frank-come on. It’s a small store advertising a legal item right next door to a store advertising beer and bourbon.

        If you think one or 2 posters are going to get your child’s attention you don’t know about the internet and school. Those posters could come down but the boys and girls in town know exactly what is going on and what is available. Get out of your helicopter.

        Just like the beer being advertised next door.

        One side says we need more mom and pops and the other side says-screw them.

        Bart Shuldman

    • Richard Fogel

      maybe we should open gun stores too?? They will make us safer.

  25. Tom Willis

    i think its a great idea, im on board

  26. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    It is refreshing to read so many comments about “Vaping” (a store in Westport)
    Next month when the Westport RTM brings up an ordnance not to sell Recreational Marijuana in Westport I hope you are all present in support.
    And when the Connecticut politicians want to pass a law to sell Recreational Marijuana I hope your there to vote it down!!
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  27. Phillip Perri

    Seth & Lou: I’m curious why your proposed ordinance is for banning the sale to anyone under 21 and not banning the sale in Westport…period. If it’s possible to raise the legal age for purchase just in Westport, could we not ban them entirely? I can tell you from experience that even with the age restriction in place today no kid has any trouble buying these products in Westport. The Sunoco on Riverside is probably the largest source in town. They have their older siblings or schoolmates buy them, they buy them online. These are not only high school kids, but middle school and even elementary school, as a few of my neighbors have experienced. Buying and selling to younger kids has become a pretty nice business for some Staples kids! Certainly banning in Westport won’t preclude these other sources, but at least it would make it a bit harder…which is a start. For adults who want to poison themselves they can buy at work or commuting, etc. outside of town. When do we take a hard stand and stop pussy-footing around? Fact is kids do not understand the addictive power of nicotine. They abhor actual cigarettes for many reasons, but not nicotine. They believe vaping is safe and tobacco companies are betting their futures on this back-door avenue to hooking the next generations. So why 21? I am curious.
    BTW, thanks for serving our community. I know it’s often a thankless job!

  28. Danny Amore

    I go there regularly and find the owner and staff to be the most caring individuals around. Ali et al are down to Earth, very generous and accommodating.

    I’ve also watched underaged kids go in and attempt to purchase pods, but they are met with a firm NO, as they must show valid ID.

    The store took down the signs immediately and when I asked him why they were there in the first place, it was explained that they were to shield the sunlight from the chocolate bars on the reverse side of the glass.

    Why boycott this store? Is it something deeper such the fact that they’re Muslim? God, I hope not.

    Seriously, they took it down immediately, moved the chocolate and they feel bad that someone was upset about it. What does this mother want? The owner and his family on the streets? My LORD!

    This is VERY unbecoming of Westport and the magnitude of negative responses are shocking. Be better.

  29. Joshua Stein

    Who was the Westport Mom that wrote this opinion piece? Its strange that Dan does not include a name yet requires us all to use our names when commenting. I think no opinion pieces should be published without names.

    • She asked for anonymity to protect her kids. I take requests on a case-by-case basis.

      • Matt Bannon

        Dan , I think josh makes a valid point but as the owner of the blog you have every right to manage this
        One question, Protect her kids from whom? My guess they are purchasers of the product and would want to avoid grief from their peers??

        • Thanks, Matt. I wrestle every day with these questions of anonymity. I’m sure anyone else with a blog does the same. There’s no right or wrong, black or white answer. I do my best.

          I have no idea whether her children vape or not. But kids can be pretty tough on each other. The mother wanted to make sure people heard the message, and did not kill (or harass) the messenger’s children (who have nothing to do with her feelings).