E-Cigs Not Bountiful in Bountiful
Four e-cigarette shops in Bountiful, Utah, found the equivalent of the proverbial lump of coal in their stockings this holiday season: the city informed them that their business licenses are being revoked, effective the first of next year.
The Davis Clipper, a newspaper in suburban Davis County on the north side of Salt Lake City, reported that Vapor Loc, Vapor R Us, Vapor Dreams, and Urban Vapor were told that it would violate state law to issue them business licenses. Earlier this year the city had licensed the shops without any objections, according to Vapor Dreams proprietors Jen Littlefield and Lewie Lambros.
The city of Bountiful, a bedroom community of about 43,000 inhabitants, claims that licensing the shops violates state law Utah Code 10-8-41.6, which includes e-cigarettes in the definition of a "retail tobacco specialty business", and prohibits location of such enterprises within 1000 feet of a "community location" (a category that embraces schools, churches, parks, libraries, and so forth) or within 600 feet of a residence.
The order to close the vapor shops comes on the heels of a regulation issued about two weeks ago, temporarily closing all smoke shops, pending the results of research on "the impact such stores would have on the city," according to an article in the Clipper, published on the 14th of December.
The Clipper contacted State Representative Paul Ray of nearby Clearfield, who drafted a clarification of Utah Code 10-8-41.6 a few years ago, further defining specialty tobacco emporia and clarifying the restrictions on their location, a bill which passed the legislature in the Spring of 2012 as Substitute State Bill 95. Ray stated that he had no knowledge of the city's reasons for the sudden revocation, and avered that the timing was "Draconian". "I would have contacted them personally and given them a little warning, or an extension before revoking their licenses," he said.
The vape shops will have to close within five days of the notice, and in the case of Littlefield and Lambros, it will leave them with no source of income. The co-owner of Vapor Loc, Alexis Martinez, claims that the closure may lose the partners $130,000 that they have invested in the shop. Martinez finds the city's decision puzzling, since she and her fellow proprietor not only followed "the letter of the law" in submitting their license application earlier in the year, but also engaged in frequent consultation with city officials and Davis County officials.
The business owners who spoke with The Davis Clipper plan to take further legal action, appealing the city's closure orders.
The matter illustrates, among other things, the negative impact of delays by the Food and Drug Administration in issuing its "Deeming Regulations", clarifying the regulatory status of electronic cigarettes.