JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek City Council amended city codes June 3 to strengthen regulations on e-cigarettes — also known as vapes — and on synthetic drugs.
In a 5-2 vote, the council approved an amendment that requires vendors to check the ID of anyone attempting to purchase vaping products and ensure they are at least 18 years old.
State law already bans e-cigarette sales to anyone under 18, but creating a city ordinance would give Johns Creek police and the municipal court more control over enforcement, Assistant City Attorney Ronald Bennett said.
The amendment also prohibits the sale, manufacture and distribution of synthetic cannabinoids, opioids and amphetamines that produce vapor or smoke within city limits.
Proponents of the proposed code changes argued the council needs to address the rising popularity of vaping among teenagers.
While studies show that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco products, they often contain nicotine, which has been proven highly addictive. The earlier someone uses nicotine products, the more difficult it is to quit later, and the substance can have lasting damaging effects on still developing adolescent brains, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Council members Chris Coughlin and Stephanie Endres voted against the measure, arguing the restrictions would likely be ineffective at stopping teens from getting their hands on vaping products and were punitive to certain businesses.
“I don’t believe it’s going to help curb adolescents using it so I won’t be supporting it,” Endres said. “But I wholeheartedly agree with what’s going on in the schools, and I think that’s going to have a far greater impact, especially the peer-to-peer education is going to be critical.”
The council also reached consensus on asking the Planning Commission to consider a change to zoning ordinances that would cap the percentage of retail floor space that could be used for the sale of vaping products at 25 percent. This requirement would only apply to new businesses.
“[Existing vape shops] have no issues with us as long as they follow the rules,” Mayor Mike Bodker said. “For those who want to come in and open within Johns Creek, yeah we are picking on the future businesses and saying you will not be welcome in our city. I don’t know that that’s a bad thing considering that we value ourselves as a premier residential community.”
Also at the meeting
In other business, the council authorized $250,000 to be spent for designs for three intersection projects along Barnwell Road. Barnwell is a collector road at the southern tip of the city that connects 14 adjacent neighborhoods to Old Alabama Road and Holcomb Bridge Road.
Based on public input, the Public Work Department recommended three projects: the addition of a left-turn lane at Barnwell Elementary, a roundabout at Barnwell and Rivermont Parkway and adjustments at the curve where Barwell becomes Jones Bridge Road.
The curb adjustments include adding a sidewalk on the outside of the curb connecting to the Foxworth neighborhood, improving safety on the inner sidewalk by providing additional buffer and separating opposing traffic with a raised median.