Washington City bans new tobacco specialty shops

Stock photo | St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY – Originally tabled last year, an ordinance banning new tobacco specialty stores was unanimously passed by the Washington Council last week following some revisions.

The ordinance, originally presented to the council during a June 2016 meeting, governs the regulation, licensure and land use permitting the sales of electronic cigarettes and related products within the city, as well as prohibiting the establishment of any future tobacco specialty stores.

Read more: City Council tables ordinance banning specialty tobacco shops

Broad language in the original draft of the ordinance troubled the owners of the city’s existing tobacco specialty shops as it seemed to paint a target on their respective businesses.

The ordinance was either too strict or seen as a pretext to get rid of existing businesses,” Washington City Attorney Jeff Starkey said during the Jan. 10 Washington City Council meeting.

A large part of the debate that led to the ordinance being tabling related to the chance it could be used to revoke a tobacco specialty store’s city-issued license over a single offense.

The offense could involve selling e-cigarette products to a minor or having an alcohol- or drug-related incident occur within their business due to an employee’s indiscretion.

It felt like the original ordinance was intended to be more of a sword than a shield,” said Brendon Gunn, owner of Cloud 9, one of Washington City’s three tobacco specialty stores.

The other stores are Mike’s Smoke Shop & Cigar gifts and Vapor Works. Unlike Mike’s Smoke Shop, Cloud 9 and Vapor primarily deal with the sale of e-cigarettes and associated products. They are counted as specialty tobacco stores as the primary ingredient in liquid used in e-cigarettes is nicotine, a tobacco product.

The ordinance that passed last week removed the language that seemed set up a pretext to eliminate the city’s existing tobacco specialty stores that are grandfathered in and allowed to continue.

While the ordinance allows these businesses to be sold to a new owner and to expand in their current locations, they are not allowed to relocate to a new spot within the city, Starkey said.

“Though I don’t completely agree with the ordinance, I think the city did a very good job of listening to the business owners and exercising all available resources to make a decision,” Gunn said.

The effort to ban specialty smoke shops in Washington City was brought to the council by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, Councilman Jeff Turek said.

Kye Nordfelt, director of health promotions for the department, said he was pleased to see the ordinance go through.

A large part of the health department’s push against e-cigarette use, also popularly known as “vaping,” is its high use among Washington County teens.

“For us, it’s a health-related issue,” Nordfelt said. “We’re seeing a significant rise in e-cigarette use among teenagers. We’re seen it rise about 350 percent over the last few years.”

That number comes from the results of a survey the health department conducted in the county with juveniles in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades. According to the results of the survey, which were released Jan. 8, high school seniors in Washington County use e-cigarettes slightly more than the national average. Many teens try e-cigarettes at 15 or younger, the health department said in a statement on the survey result.

“Nicotine is extremely addictive and has an especially negative impact on teen brain development,” the statement said. “E-cigarettes also provide a convenient drug delivery system for other drugs, like marijuana, which local law enforcement officers have found in these devices. Studies show that teens who vape are also two to four times more likely to try a traditional cigarette.”

On the other hand, researchers who published a study in October in Tobacco Control, a peer-reviewed journal covering tobacco use and its consequences, claim switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes may reduce the risk a premature death tied to smoking.

While crusading against teen e-cigarette use, Nordfelt has previously stated the health department hasn’t encountered problems with the specialty stores in Washington City selling products to minors.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Nobody January 18, 2018 at 3:54 am

    Looks like the moral police is hard at work once again, SM …*H…
    This will eventually lead to them trying to buy out the properties, where the smoke shops are. Thus forcing them out. Since they can not relocate: Game over. This is not really about Teens at all. This is about agenda. All the shops would have to do is ID everyone. Like the Liquor stores. Besides, if they think teens can’t buy vape supplies online, they must hittin’ the cool-aid, big time.
    All the kiddos need to do, is “click and agree” they are at least 18 years old to enter and buy.
    Oh yeah almost forgot: Then, there is the “Demon” pot smokers! Pot should be the least of St. George’s worries. How about going after all the Mo-Mo Mommies that pop Prozac like candy. How about the pill poppers that think opioids are a food group??
    Oh yeah, wait. There is no problem with them, because they do not interfere with the agenda. I simply can not believe, the city council thinks we buy this crap. But since it’s agenda based (you know what agenda I’m talking about) they have the majority’s support on this.
    This is about one about one thing: Not allowing alternative lifestyles to take further foothold in St.George.
    Anyway, rant over. Flame away…..

    Ed. ellipsis: …*

  • Craig January 18, 2018 at 6:21 am

    By limiting the market, isn’t the city artificially making existing tobacco shops increase in value? The city has removed the risk of competition.

    Another question; is it appropriate for the government to refuse to allow a legal product to be market driven?

    I’m not a tobacco user in any way, but is this what we want government doing, choosing for us our access to legal products?

  • jaybird January 18, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Total BS. Again, the tight asses church members at work.

  • dons8120 January 18, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Yes nicotine is addictive, but what about how bad sugar is for everyone. Mavericks are popping up everywhere in the county with their king size candy bars and ten gallon soda refills. Let the kids vape, they will still die at a young age from diabetes before the nicotine ever hurts them. Like nobody said above its all apart of their agenda to rid the city and county of anything that doesn’t give a good perception of the Mormon culture. Opioids are fine because a doctor prescribes them and the heroin problem is covered up by the mayors and city councils hiding police reports from the public of how bad it really is in Washington county. Everyone wants the area to grow into a big city just as long as the crime and anything not approved by the church stays out. Tobacco shops are the least of Washington Cities worries. I don’t smoke, but the smoke shops have my support.

  • epicket1 January 18, 2018 at 11:06 am

    All because the mormon communists are greedy and power hungry.

  • comments January 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    These ‘smoke shops’ tend to be a magnet for lowlifes. just a fact

  • Bill January 19, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Atta boy Jeff Turik and Kye Nordfelt… You guys passed a city ordinance to ban a legal product. Do you feel the power? Must give you a warm fuzzy feeling. What’s next on your agenda? How about a city ordinance to ban dancing? My guess is that Washington City teens participate in this activity which, I’m sure by your standard, also possess a health risk.

    For christ sake I read this story and felt like I was in the twilight zone. Washington City is in desperate need of a new city council… Jeff Turik et al… I hope your days are numbered

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