Flavored vape ban passes first reading despite impassioned plea from Tobacco Row

JACKSON, Wyo. — Town council took one step forward and one step back Monday when they passed on first reading an ordinance banning the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and vape material.

It will take two more readings to make the law official; meanwhile, town attorney Lea Colasuonno was directed to look into a way the ordinance could be crafted that might allow for a business that ‘cards’ at the door to allow entry to 21-and-over only to continue to sell flavored e-cigs and vapes.

Tobacco Row owner Brady Hayek pleaded his case with the council Monday night, saying the ordinance would have a huge financial effect on his 44-year-old landmark business.

“Unlike other stores in town that sell tobacco products, I have only one revenue stream and that is all things tobacco. This ban will have the greatest effect on Tobacco Row which simply sells a legal product to adults only,” Hayek said. “I realize that vaping is a problem with today’s youth. Tobacco Row is definitely doing our part to help curb that issue.”

Hayek outlined measures he has taken with his business to ensure tobacco products are sold to adults only. He also shared his perfect track record on compliance checks.

“This is my commitment as a store owner to making certain tobacco products are purchased by those of legal age to do so. What’s more, I do not, nor have I ever advertised that we sell any vape products.”

Finally, Hayek claimed evidence suggests that blanket ban ordinances, as written by the town, merely drive sales to the internet or to stores outside the jurisdiction of the law.

“A blanket ban will simply punish Tobacco Row from selling these legal products to adults,” he said.

Hayek’s arguments have been countered throughout the months-long process by voices like Jodi Radke, regional director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Radke spouted statistics galore to the council that underscored the importance of keeping tobacco products out of the hands of youth.

“It is important to protect Jackson kids from the possibility of a lifelong addiction to tobacco. We need to be prioritizing kids over profits,” Radke said, urging the council to do even more by considering banning all types of flavored tobacco.

How they voted

Councilman Jim Stanford reminded his peers that he has significant worry about responsible adults using flavored tobacco products to try to quit smoking. He asked Colasuonno if she might be able to look into what it would take to draw up language that would allow for businesses that check IDs for entry to continue to sell flavored products.

Councilman Jim Stanford cast the minority vote Monday against moving the ordinance forward. Photo: Courtesy Town of Jackson

“We have some good examples of how marijuana sales are governed in neighboring states where you have to be 21 to enter the store,” Stanford said. “The state of Wyoming finds itself in an awful budget crunch and it’s conceivable, perhaps, that someday the state of Wyoming will join our peer communities and our neighboring states in legalizing marijuana and perhaps turn into the most profitable investment in the history of the Wyoming Business Council.”

Councilwoman Hailey Morton Levinson said she would be “interested in pursuing a different class of store” that could “regulate by age who comes in as different than a convenience store”

“It’s a different type of store and a different type of business,” she said, adding that she agreed with Hayek that she did not think local youth were getting their vapes from Tobacco Row.

Councilmen Arne Jorgensen and Jonathan Schechter expressed interest in finding a “carve-out” for a business like Tobacco Row but worried that Colasuonno should not burn herself out researching it.

Mayor Pete Muldoon, however, pushed for a vote on first reading, saying the council could always revert to an amended version any time before the third and final reading.

“We knew from the beginning we would be trying to strike a balance between preventing these products from getting into the hands of kids and also not wanting to prevent adults from finding safer ways to use nicotine products,” Muldoon said. “Also, and I want to be really clear here, there is no right [a business has] to make a living selling dangerous products to people. It’s our job to promote the public health and welfare.”

Council passed the first reading of Ordinance W on a 4-1 vote with Stanford opposed.

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