Morristown to license for vape vendors

Stephanie Gorman, left, Morristown's health contractor, demonstrators how e-cigarettes can be disguised as USB drives. Town Administrator Jillian Barrick and Mayor Tim Dougherty listen. April 23, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Stephanie Gorman, left, Morristown's health contractor, demonstrators how e-cigarettes can be disguised as USB drives. Town Administrator Jillian Barrick and Mayor Tim Dougherty listen. April 23, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Getting an e-smoke is about to get a little harder in Morristown.

Morristown’s council on Tuesday introduced an ordinance to license manufacturers and vendors of vapes–electronic cigarettes– and to ban sale of these devices and paraphernalia by convenience stores, gas stations and bars.

“The health and well being of our youth is important to my administration, which is why tonight I am proposing the implementation of a licensing and regulation for all electronic cigarette retailers. The proposed ordinance places strict controls to limit the access of minors to e-cigarettes in our municipality,” Mayor Tim Dougherty said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared the use of e-cigarettes “unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults.” Nicotine is suspected of harming brain development of adolescents. Other additives are considered harmful as well.

What’s really scary, according to Stephanie Gorman, Morristown’s health contractor, is the absence of regulations nationwide. She said there are more than 400 brands of e-cigarette, which can vaporize some 15,000 flavors–like bubblegum–to entice youths.

“The 2016 Surgeon General’s report stated that electronic cigarettes are marketed by promoting flavors, and using a wide variety of media channels and approaches that have been used in the past for marketing conventional tobacco products to use in young adults,” Gorman told the council.

Vaping presentation and questions, video playlist by Kevin Coughlin for Click icon top left to toggle through clips:

Some vapes resemble USB drives and are easily concealed, she said, displaying several models to the council.

Gorman identified 16 establishments in town that now sell vapes and/or the “pods” that fuel them.

If the council adopts the ordinance on May 14, 2019, these businesses will have 60 days to comply. Violators may face penalties ranging from $1,000 fines to shutdown of the business.

Among other things, the measure prohibits sale of such items to anyone under 21. Licensed retailers must post age warnings on the door, and deny entrance to under-aged people. Nor may they hire anyone under 21.

Such establishments cannot be located within 500 feet of a school, public park or playground.

The sale of vaping items via self-service displays and vending machines also is prohibited.

The town Health officer and police department are charged with enforcement. Any business shut down for violations may appeal to the town council.

A retail license will cost $1,000, a manufacturing license, $2,500. Proceeds will fund enforcement.

Councilman Robert Iannaccone asked if the town simply can ban the sale of e-cigarettes. That could pose legal hurdles, replied town Attorney Vij Pawar, who said he would study whether the number of licenses could be limited by adjusting the town’s zoning codes.

The ordinance was introduced by a 4-0 vote. Council President Toshiba Foster and members Alison Deeb and David Silva were absent.

Eighteen other New Jersey municipalities have issued some form of restrictions on the sale or use of e-cigarettes, said Gorman, who is employed by the Morris County Office of Health Management and is contracted to provide services to Morristown. Her presentation was assisted by Shanice Johnson, also from the county office.

Morris Township introduced an anti-vaping ordinance earlier this year, but postponed its adoption when residents voiced concerns that it would criminalize the victims–their kids.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, from 2017 to 2018 use of electronic smoking devices increased by 78 percent among high school students, and 48 percent among middle school students.

Some 3.62 million middle and high school students used electronic smoking devices in 2018, the FDA has reported.

Eighty-one percent of youths cite the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use of vapes, according to the FDA.


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