JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — In an effort to curtail teen vaping, the Johns Creek City Council is considering changes to its ordinances that would impact electronic cigarette vendors.
At their May 6 work session, council members discussed three potential changes to city codes that would strengthen regulations of vape shops. There are eight establishments in the city that are licensed to sell e-cigarettes and related products.
The first measure would require vendors to see the ID of anyone attempting to purchase vaping products and ensure they are at least 18 years old. State law bans e-cigarette sales to anyone under 18.
The second option would reduce the percentage of retail floor space that could be used for the sale of vaping products. The third option would prohibit the sale, manufacture and distribution of synthetic cannabinoids, opioids and amphetamines that produce vapor or smoke.
The regulations overlap with state law but would give Johns Creek the power try violators in the city’s municipal court.
“Essentially, it’s having complete control over enforcement,” Assistant City Attorney Ronald Bennett said. “If you have a local ordinance it stays here, it can’t go to Fulton County.”
Mayor Mike Bodker and Councilman Steve Broadbent argued this would make enforcement more efficient by eliminating the need to coordinate with the Fulton County Superior Court.
The considerations fit with a trend in local governments cracking down on vaping. Earlier this year, Milton enacted a ban on synthetic marijuana and opiates and put stricter restrictions on vape shops. Fulton County also enacted a ban on synthetic drugs, and Forsyth County is considering additional restrictions.
Council members had tasked staff with coming up with restrictions that would limit teens’ access to the products without hurting businesses or hindering the choices of adults who use vape products, which, some argue, are safer than traditional tobacco products.
“I have a very different view of what a person of age or an adult does with their body, but the risk factor for the younger people is much different when it comes to getting addicted,” Councilman John Bradberry said.
Some council members said they were skeptical the ordinances would stop vape products from getting into the hands of teenagers.
“All these businesses have to comply with Georgia law that says that they can’t sell to anyone under 18,” Councilwoman Stephanie Endres said. “They’re not selling under 18 … I think that the parents and the older siblings are buying them and they’re sharing them.”
Councilman Chris Coughlin, who in the past proposed decriminalizing recreational marijuana in the city, argued there is little evidence prohibition is an effective way to stop drug abuse and addiction.
“It’s an ineffective solution to a problem that’s so multifaceted,” Coughlin said. “If we want to say we are against teenagers ingesting intoxicants or psychotropics, I’m all for that, but we’ve never seen changes in addiction rates since we implemented the ‘War on Drugs’ so I think it’s a lot of wasted resources.”
The mayor suggested moving forward with the plans requiring ID and limiting floor space, but Broadbent, Bradberry, Councilman Jay Lin and Councilman Lenny Zaprowski provided majority support for further studying a synthetic ban as well.