Bountiful Plan to Keep E-Cigarette Stores Open Without License Could be Problematic

Dec 31, 2013

The director of a group that advocates for the availability of electronic cigarettes says Bountiful City’s plan to let four e-cigarette shops stay open through 2014 without a business license, might do more harm than good.

Last week, Bountiful City Attorney Russell Mahan informed shop owners they had five days to cease business at their current locations because they were in violation of a state zoning law. Then on Monday, Mahan told retailers the city would not prosecute them for remaining open another year—without a business license—to give them time to find a new location or challenge the state law.

Aaron Frazier is director of Utah Vapers, an e-cigartette consumer advocacy group. He says retailers are glad they have more time, but the proposal is still unacceptable.

“Now while the city indicated they would not prosecute the businesses for remaining open through 2014 without a business license, it does put them at greater risk as a result of tax commission, potential action by the attorney general’s office for operating without a business license, as well as insurance and financial issues, should they need a business loan for any reason,” Frazier says.

A state law passed in 2012 bans the city from issuing a business license to e-cigarette stores within 1000 feet of public meeting places like churches or parks and within 600 feet of a private residence.

Frazier says, ideally, he would like to see the law changed.

“You can have a convenience store open up on any city corner,” Frazier says. “Where it’s properly zoned for it at least, that can be right next door to a residence or a school, have them plaster tobacco ads and alcohol adds all over their building and all over their property. But yet an electronic cigarette store that has none of that, they’re not allowed to open.”

Frazier says the retailers plan to file an appeal with Bountiful City in the next few days.

A spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s office says it’s unclear whether the office will step in to take legal action against businesses that are operating without a license.