There is a real possibility that the future of e-cig devices in St. Joseph could be very much in the balance. Although the city’s ban on indoor smoking currently includes the use of e-cigs, it is actually in conflict with a state law that was put into effect a few months after the local ban had been passed by city voters. The state law says that alternative smoking devices such as e-cigarettes may not be taxed or regulated in the same way as regular tobacco products.
The state law does take precedence in a case like this, and now the question is what the St. Joseph City Council is going to do – a lot of people are watching with interest. An e-cig store manager at Muse Vape in St. Joseph, Amanda Gillpatrick, said, “Vaping is a huge community. It’s very, very big and definitely trending upward.”
For the time being, vape shops like Muse Vape are safe in that city officials have decided not to enforce the e-cig part of the indoor smoking ban.
At this stage, officials say that the city has three options. They could simply continue not enforcing the current law against vaping devices. They could amend the indoor smoking ban ordinance and eliminate the mention of e-cigs. The third option is that a completely new law could be written and passed – but the third one would be to write a separate ordinance enforcing the e-cigarettes and vapor products not be used indoors.
The third option understandably has vapor shops voicing their concerns. Gillpatrick said in this regard, “I think it would be a shame to take this away from people. I know several people who come in here all the time and talk about how they quit smoking cigarettes just from vaping alone.”
Many people who have been actively fighting the indoor smoking ban over the past two years have said that the e-cig controversy shows that there are problems with the current law. Marty Kotche, co-owner of Amnesia Too, stated in this regard, “The fight is not dying. It’s that they thought everybody would lay down. The ordinance is not written correctly. There are a lot of loopholes in it.”
Smaller bar owners like Kotche have said that they are actually in agreement with smoking ban advocates in that they don’t want to current law to be completely overturned. Kotche said that he would just like something fair for everyone – a law that doesn’t put them at a major disadvantage over the St, Joe Frontier Casino, where smoking is still permitted in the gaming floor area.
Kotche has a few allies as well. Steve Peterman, owner of Peterman’s Shamrock, said, “It’s about as unfair as it can be. Anybody with common sense can see this is not right.” Kotche and Peterman have said that the city is being selective with regards to where it enforces the smoking ban. They have also received multiple citations from the city for permitting smoking inside their establishments, while others doing the same aren’t being punished.
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