Vape shop owners in Mississippi are ripping into a proposed regulation that would set different standards for vape shops, something owners say will drive business to other locations.
Earlier this month, the Board of Alderman in Starkville, Miss., passed a ban on using electronic cigarettes in all public areas of the community, including inside tobacco shops. The ordinance expanded the definition of tobacco to include vapor products. Vape shop owners felt this unfairly restricted their business because many vapers like to test products inside the store before a purchase, reports The Reflector.
In an effort to help ease the anxieties of owners who fear they will lose customers under these restrictions, officials are proposing a secondary amendment to the city’s 2008 smoking law that would exempt free-standing tobacco and vape stores from the ban. The proposal does not account for vape shops inside shopping centers however, meaning that certain stores will be exempt while others will still need to enforce the restrictions.
“It doesn’t make sense to me because my store is a closed-in area,” Wael Salem, manager of Tobacco 101 on Highway 12, told The Reflector. “If the exemption excludes my store, consumers will go elsewhere to smoke. It is unfair that they are putting vapes in the same category as cigarettes.”
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.
“Treating vaping the same as smoking is to treat it as guilty by association since cigarettes are a source of nicotine,” Taylor Garner, a professor at Mississippi State University and local vaper, told The Reflector. “I wish law[makers] and policymakers would be more knowledgeable about the things they produce policy and law about.”
Officials in Starkville say the vaping ban shows the community their leaders are serious about protecting health standards, but public health experts argue policies that do not differentiate between the safety profile of traditional tobacco and vapor products actually undermine public health by denying smokers a less harmful alternative that cuts risk to themselves and those around them.
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