Local governments all over the US have been drawing up legislation on vapes the last few years. Most laws are restrictive and precautious. Communities worry about their kids; businesses worry about vape clouds filling the rooms. One Montana county responded to the vaping trend with a progressive approach to its legislature, local sources report. Though, a new state bill may undermine Montana’s current liberal attitude towards vape products.
The Board of Health in Ravalli County, Montana reversed its indoor public vaping ban. The board initially voted 3-2 to include vapes in their Clean Indoor Air ordinance, despite state legislature that distinguishes vapes from cigarettes. Montana was also the first state in the country to make 18 the legal age to buy and use tobacco alternatives. The progressive stance state legislators have taken on vapes ultimately aided in changing the county health board’s minds. So far, the state of Montana allows local governments to set their own legislation for vaping indoors.
A local vape retailer swayed officials to reverse the decision by pointing to those existing state laws. Retailers presented existing research data to convince health officials of the positive impacts of vaping compared to smoking. Ron and Deanna Marshall of Freedom Vapes in Hamilton, Montana convinced the health board that restrictive laws would be bad for vape businesses.
Vape shops often allow customers to try various flavors before they buy. A lot of vape shops are designed to look like bars – high counter tops with stools or high top chairs. Customers come to vape shops to sample new and different flavors, talk with other enthusiasts, and have a place to which they can escape. Vape shops to vapers are no different than bars, in that respect.
Restricting vape shops from allowing indoor use not only limits business potential, but undoes the atmosphere and community value of going into a shop and staying. Without being allowed to vape indoors, the novelty of going into a vape shop and chatting up the employees while trying out flavors is entirely gone. That exact experience is what sets a vape shop apart from convenience stores, more of which are beginning to carry vape products. It is not the experience, however, that has business owners concerned.
Restrictive vape legislation stems usually from classifying vape products as tobacco products. Most states follow suit with federal classification, and the FDA has not budged on its position that vape products – specifically vape juice – should be considered tobacco. Nicotine is the only shared ingredient between the two. The more laws write up vapes lazily as tobacco products, the more social stigma vaping stands to gain.
Lumping vape products in with cigarettes and the like also puts undue financial burden on people who use vaping to quit smoking. Tobacco products carry high taxes because of their health risks. Vaping products are offered as a smoking cessation tool, are being proven to work, and are generally considered healthier than cigarettes. Applying tobacco’s tax (or higher) to products designed to help people quit smoking is not only counterproductive, it is counterintuitive. Freedom Vapes co-owner, Deanna Hamilton, published a letter in the local Ravalli press to argue for a ‘no’ vote on an upcoming tax hike for Montana’s vape products – Initiative 185. Hopefully, the state continues to be a progressive leader in vape legislation.