Vape Shops Face Likely Ban On Testing Products With Customers In Their Stores

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Lawmakers in a Montana town are killing a proposed exemption for vape shops under a new rule that bans the use of electronic cigarettes indoors and in certain public spaces.

The Missoula City Council delayed a smoking and vaping ordinance set to pass Feb. 26 to review the provisions concerning the use of e-cigarettes inside vapor stores, something owners say is necessary to help former smokers find their preferred product. Two local businesses, Ecig Vapor Juice and Liberty Vapor Smoke, convinced Ward 3 council member Heather Harp to offer the vape shop exemption as a way to better protect small business rights in their community, reports the Missoulian.

However, a majority of the Missoula City Council spoke out against the exemption after a meeting Wednesday, deflating the hopes of local vape shop owners. After further review Harp fears an exemption would have “devastating” unintended consequences, potentially giving convenience stores legal grounds to challenge the new ordinance, she argued Wednesday.

Advocates of the exemption are asking lawmakers to stop treating vapor products like cigarettes. They argue customer product testing is a critical aspect of their business, which helps former smokers choose the right device or juice.

“When it comes down to it, it’s not the same as cigarettes,” Keith Bowman, the owner of four Ecig Vapor Juice, said Wednesday at the hearing, according to the Missoulian. “You’d be basically putting vaporists, who are trying to quit smoking, back out with all the smokers.”

The ordinance, which amends the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act, will stay in committee until the next public hearing, which is expected in several weeks.

Harm reduction experts are critical of policies that conflate combustible cigarettes’ destructive health impacts with vapor products. Policies should reflect the difference in risk between cigarettes and alternative technologies, the experts say.

A growing body of research suggests vaping does not carry any meaningful second-hand risks in indoor environments. A recent study investigating the health impact of aerosol vapor emitted from the devices shows that chemical levels in the vapor are well below the safety limits suggested by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.

Millions of former U.S. smokers are embracing the positive science on vaping and using the harm-reduction tools to quit combustible cigarettes.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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