Milwaukee Council Members Move Toward a 6-month Moratorium on New Vape Shops
Even as authorities become more accommodating to vaping, the proliferation of vape shops might not be a good thing. That is the stance of the Milwaukee council members as they identify the health risks of vaping. Furthermore, the marketing strategy of the e-cigarette companies is being called into question.
The moratorium’s purpose is to give the council time to develop a clear plan for vape shops. Let’s do a quick rundown on the suspension and its consequences, including some thoughtful reactions.
Table Of Contents
Milwaukee Council Approved a Moratorium on New Vape Shops
Milwaukee established tighter control over vaping devices when it banned the practice in 2018. Vaping is illegal on city property, in enclosed public places, and other areas where smoking cigarettes is prohibited. However, the moratorium on new vape shops goes after the supply rather than the usage.
Milwaukee Common Council passes moratorium that would prevent new vape shops for 6 months https://t.co/Iiz08xeE8e
— Journal Sentinel (@journalsentinel) February 7, 2023
The Milwaukee Common Council committee has backed the proposal to ban new vape shops businesses that sell vape pods. Over half of the 12 council members have expressed support for the move to give the city more time. If passed into law, new businesses that sell vaping devices will be unable to operate in the region for six months.
Prehistory: “The proposal ― sponsored by Alds. Jonathan Brostoff, Marina Dimitrijevic, and Mark Borkowski ― calls for a pause on the distribution of occupancy permits to any establishments that sell “electronic cigarettes or electronic cigarette paraphernalia.”
The City Council’s five-member committee sponsors the proposed six-month moratorium on zoning, development, and neighborhoods. Its members include Alds. Michael Murphy, Scott Spiker, Robert Bauman, Russell Stamper, and Dimitrijevic.
Although started by them, the proposal found adoption without any objection from the city council.
The proposal places a six-month ban on new businesses that sell vaping devices to give the authorities time to do the following:
- Regulate when vape pod sales occur.
- Regulate the location for the sale of vaping devices in the city
- Review how companies market vaping products to the younger age bracket
Even though the matter is still before the Milwaukee Common Council, the move will stop giving vape shops occupancy permits. These companies cannot establish a physical presence in the city for six months.
What Kind of Businesses Would the Moratorium Apply to?
Existing businesses that sell vaping devices, including those applying for a permit, will not be affected. On the other hand, establishing a new vape shop will not be possible for six months. The proposal recognizes affected businesses to include the following:
- Any business with 10% of its floor space for vaping devices or the paraphernalia
- Any business that vaping devices or paraphernalia take up 10% or more of its listed products
So, the moratorium will affect any company falling under the above categories.
Would Electronic Cigarette Sales or Use be Banned Under This Moratorium?
Apart from the earlier regulations/ban enforced since 2018, the new moratorium excludes a new ban on sales or use. It pauses the issuance of permits to new businesses with vaping products. Established vape shops can continue operating in the city within existing laws.
Users can still purchase vape pods from established stores. They can vape in areas where there are no anti-vaping laws.
What Will Be the Consequences?
The Department of Neighborhood Services Commissioner, Erica Roberts, has raised concerns regarding the moratorium. Even the committee chair has acknowledged the likelihood of getting sued for the proposal. Hence the push for a written record to establish the moratorium as legal and defensible.
The ban will apply to vape shops and businesses selling vaping devices. Even a drug store cannot obtain the permit if it sells vapes and e-cigarettes. Then, we have the question of enforcing the proposal’s six-month pause.
While the Department of Neighborhood Services will include the vaping question for any new business, most enforcement rests on complaints. Fire inspections happen once a year and may not be enough to catch defaulting companies.
If a person complains, the department will confirm, send a citation, and take the business or company to municipal court if unresolved. The department will need more from the regulation to have more substantial enforcement capabilities.
The public’s reaction to this vape news is torn between two camps. On the one hand, we have people who welcome the development, while those who oppose it sit on the other. Many have called for a more comprehensive approach to regulating vaping hours and brightness.
Temporary ban on new vape shops in Milwaukee is a likely precursor to zoning regulations on where they can be located. https://t.co/Trggst4g3z
— Jeramey Jannene (@compujeramey) February 7, 2023
Some see the moratorium as a move to address the challenges plaguing the city’s quality of life. They believe it is the right step to make their neighborhoods safe. Yet, some see it as a political move, with the city authority confusing illegal THC vapes with legal e-cigarettes.
Ald. Jonathan Brostoff said the goal is to stop a "proliferation" of vape shops around the city and buy city leaders some time to develop clearer regulations on where and how these businesses can operate, given the health risks associated with vaping. https://t.co/m91LJr9D6M
— Jessica Van Egeren (@jvanegeren) February 7, 2023
The move by the Milwaukee Common Council to stop giving occupancy permits to stores that sell vaping devices is a good one. With the city battling the proliferation of vape shops, regulating the practice is imminent. Hence, the 6-month moratorium will allow the council to address the issue with a more rounded response.
Nonetheless, the proposal extends to other companies that sell vaping products as a small part of their inventory. Having 10% of the stock is enough to put them on hold. Also, enforcement is tricky because there aren’t many ways besides complaints and the annual fire inspection.
To some, it is good news—a move towards improving the city’s quality of life.