Debate Rages Over Treating Vaping Like Cigarettes Under Restrictive Rule

Steve Birr | Contributor

A Mississippi city is deeply divided over an ordinance recently passed that would set different standards for certain vape shops; owners say this will unfairly cut into business.

The Board of Alderman in Starkville, Miss., voted in October to treat electronic cigarettes like tobacco products under the law, that heavily impacts where vapers can use their device. The rule bans vaping in all public areas of the community, including inside tobacco shops, something owners argue unfairly restricts their business, because many vapers like to test products inside the store before a purchase, reports The Reflector.

In response to the blow-back from small business owners in the city, the Board offered a secondary amendment to the city’s 2008 smoking law that would exempt free-standing tobacco and vape stores from the ban, which was publicly debated in the first of two hearings on the issue Tuesday.

Tobacco control advocates are decrying the amendment, that they say will undermine the city’s status as a leader on public health issues. Vape shop owners, however, are asking critics of e-cigarettes to “do some research” on the health benefits of the devices over smoking.

“I need this exemption to continue growing, and to continue serving my customers to the best of my ability,” Josef Enfinger, owner of 1810 Vapors, told The Reflector. “Currently, I am able to allow the testing of e-liquids and devices that are causing trouble. I demonstrate to new customers how to properly use these devices and help them if they are having issues learning to vape.”

The amendment is also drawing criticism from vape shop owners who note it does not account for vape shops inside shopping centers, meaning that certain stores will be exempt while others will still need to enforce the restrictions. The Board of Alderman is holding a second public hearing on the contentious issue Nov. 21.

Localities across the country are passing ordinances that conflate vaping devices with traditional tobacco, ignoring the fact e-cigarettes only contain nicotine and none of the cancer causing chemicals found in combustible cigarettes.

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Steve Birr



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