Home » News

Local health departments would regulate Utah smoke shops under bill

First Published      Last Updated Mar 09 2017 05:51 pm

Local health departments would receive more power to control smoke shops and e-cigarette shops under legislation that passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday. HB370 now goes to the full House for consideration.

Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, said his bill would require smoke or vape shops to obtain licenses from local health departments — besides the tobacco licenses they already must obtain from the Utah Tax Commission, and business licenses from local cities.

Health departments have found it difficult to enforce some laws, such as preventing sales to minors or requiring that shops not be located near schools or churches, Last said. He added that health departments now essentially must go to the state Tax Commission and ask that it enforce violations found by threatening to pull its license.

The new license would give health departments more direct enforcement power. Last said it would allow the Tax Commission to oversee tax issues, and health departments to enforce health issues.

HB370 was supported by one vaping industry group — the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association — but opposed by another, the Utah Smokefree Association.

Tad Jensen, president of the Utah Smokefree Association, said the bill would not give any recourse if a local health department denied a license. He also objected that the bill would change legal definitions to include vaping e-cigarettes as "smoking." He said, "Vaping is not smoking," because vaping products do not burn.

Lewie Lambrous, owner of Vapor Dreams in Bountiful, worried the bill could force him out of business because his shop would violate rules in the law about where it could be located. But Linnea Fletcher with the Utah County Health Department said the bill would grandfather shops that had leases in effect prior to 2012.