Bountiful, Utah is a suburb of Salt Lake City. Quite recently 4 electronic cigarette retailers were granted business licenses to sell in the local area. Now, it turns out their shops violate zoning which prohibits sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes within 600 feet of a residence or 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, churches, and libraries. There are few places in any suburban area that would fit this criteria.
These shops have not been given one year to clear out.
Initially, the shops were told on December 23rd to close up by January 1st of 2014. But after contacting media and private counsel, it sounds like pressure has led the local council to provide a more reasonable timeline given that they were granted the business licenses in the first place.
Even the law on this issue is a bit hazy. Electronic cigarettes in Utah in some cases are tobacco products and in some cases are not. They are exempt from some laws until around July 2017, but it’s difficult to find which ones. In the end, the reprieve for these businesses may be the time necessary to show the kind of good will that will buy them a pass back into legality.
If nothing else, it is good to see that a council is willing to go easy on businesses that have done nothing to prove themselves evil dens of addiction. It would have been easy for the council to throw up its hands and say Not our problem, we don’t make the rules, the state does. But they granted a stay of execution. Whatever pressure might have been involved, this was a mature decision.
One note that seems particularly worth notice is the final statement from the Bountiful City Council.
“You are put on one year advance notice that unless you comply with state law by Dec. 31, 2014, or the law is changed in a manner that makes your location lawful, or the state law is successfully challenged in court, you should not expect to be licensed or allowed to do business in 2015. In such event, you will then still have the right to appeal to the Bountiful City Council.”
This not only gives the shops a year to sort their affairs, but also offers the opportunity to fight for better, more flexible regulation of electronic cigarette businesses. Even if it doesn’t happen, the right to appeal the council again if all else fails provides one last back-up for a council that by then may seen them as contributing members of the community and worth defending.
Here’s to small victories.