Stevens Point struggling with regulations on e-cigarette bars

STEVENS POINT — A city committee will meet Monday to try to come up with a plan to regulate electronic cigarette vapor bars as more and more of the businesses are opening in Stevens Point.

The Stevens Point City Council could decide to amend city zoning ordinances to include a specific definition of vapor bars. According to a proposed ordinance change, a business would be considered a vapor bar if 25 percent of its floor space is dedicated to seating.

Vapor products are a substitute for smoking in which flavored nicotine water is vaporized by a device and inhaled.

The city also will decide whether to issue conditional use permits for those bars, which would give the city the ability to revoke permits for owners who don’t adhere to whatever regulations the city develops for vapor bars, City Attorney Andrew Logan Beveridge said. Conditional use permits cost $250, according to the Community Development Office.

“These things are so new, you don’t have other ordinances to follow,” Beveridge said. “Municipalities are forced to come up with their own rules for regulating these things.”

Beveridge said the city is receiving a growing number of requests and inquiries from entrepreneurs interested in opening e-cig businesses, including one that would be considered a vapor lounge. The city wants to come up with regulations before more vapor businesses are established, he said.

Many municipalities still haven’t taken up the issue, nor has the state.

Wausau, for example, doesn’t have vapor regulations on its radar, Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee Chairwoman Lisa Rasmussen said.

“It’s so new that no one has had enough issues come up that we need to manage it,” Rasmussen said.

Stevens Point currently has two stores specializing in vapor products. Neither Point Vapor on Isadore Street nor Mossity on Main Street consider themselves bars, though vapor users are allowed to consume the products within the confines of their stores.

Jason Mattison, owner of Point Vapor, said he wasn’t concerned about potential city regulations because he considers Point Vapor to be a retail establishment and doesn’t have enough seating to meet the city’s threshold for a vapor bar.

“I think the only thing I would have to do is get a conditional use permit,” Mattison said. “I have no problem filing for that. I’m sure if there were problems, the city would notify me.”

Gaven Moss, owner of Mossity, which sells vaping products, said he plans to attend Monday’s meeting to find out more about possible regulations.

“I don’t think you should need a license,” Moss said. “It’s not a tobacco product. It’s a substitute for tobacco. You don’t need a license to sell Nicorette gum, why should it be different for vaping?”