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  • Kevin Elliott

Vaping permit moratorium approved

Rochester City Council on Monday, September 25, passed a 90-day moratorium on the issuance of any and all permits or approvals for vaping, as well as the sales of vaping products in multi-unit commercial buildings.

Rochester City Attorney Jeff Kragt said the moratorium was requested by council so that the city's planning commission could address the issue of vaping uses in multi-tenant commercial buildings. Council, in its discussion of the moratorium, requested the measure be expanded to include on-site sales or vaping products, as well.

Two men who said they were hoping to open a vape shop at 109 S. Main Street spoke to city council during the meeting to say they didn't intend to allow on-site use of vaping products.

One of the men, who identified himself as Nick, said his partner Maurice's father used to smoke several packs of cigarettes a day until he traded in the habit for vaping.

"Our main mission is to help people to stop smoking," Nick said, saying they were concerned about the health of those in the community. "We aren't a hangout shop."

Councilwoman Ann Peterson said she doesn't know enough about vaping products firsthand, but that a presentation by one of the police department's school liaison officers to council about the use of vaping products by high school and middle school students suggested it was problematic.

"I don't know enough about it, so I have to rely on my police force to decide if its a good thing coming into the community," she said.

In May, city council approved increasing penalties for underage offenses of e-cigarette use. Electronic cigarettes are devices that resemble cigarettes, but use an internal heating mechanism to warm refillable liquids into an aerosol, or vapor, which can be inhaled. The process is known as vaping.

Councilman Jeffrey Cuthbertson said the intention of the moratorium was to protect other commercial tenants in buildings where on-site vaping may be done. Current land use and zoning regulations, he said, don't have any prohibitions on such uses in buildings that may share an air system. The moratorium, he said, will allow the planning commission time to address the issue before any such uses are permitted.

"Superheating chemicals that are at base not real well understood on how they interact with human physiology – I'm not sure we are at a point where we can say this is healthy," he said. "I appreciate it may be somewhat better than someone smoking a cigarette, but to call it 'healthy' is a bridge too far."

Councilman Stuart Bikson echoed Cuthbertson's concern.

"At Waterford Mott High School, if you are caught vaping, you are immediately suspended," he said. "For you to come in and say its like a health food store – it's really preposterous."

The moratorium was unanimously approved by council.

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