Brookhaven board backpedals on vape store vote

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Brookhaven alderman expressed regret Tuesday at a vote earlier this year that supported vaping businesses in the city.

“I supported it when it came about but I’m having some reservations about it now, I’m almost to the point that I’m sorry I supported it,” Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron said during a board meeting Tuesday.

“You stole my thunder,” said Mayor Joe Cox, who had recently talked to city attorney Joe Fernald about the subject.

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“Joe and I have been discussing that and we’re real concerned about vaping and the lipoid pneumonia that’s being caused by that. The FDA is looking at it,” he said.

Alderwoman-at-Large Karen Sullivan, who is a vocal advocate for the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Copiah and Lincoln Counties, asked if they could deny any other vape stores from opening in the city. Vapor World recently opened on Brookway Boulevard, becoming the third vape store in Brookhaven.

“Can we at least have a moratorium?” she asked.

“We are looking into that,” Cox said. “The FDA and the state are probably going to deal with it before we do.”

The board voted April 22 to adopt a Brookhaven Smoke Free Ordinance, with Sullivan as the lone vote against it due to some of the items included. Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore, Ward 3 Alderwoman Mary Wilson and Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice were absent from that special-called meeting. Cameron along with Ward 4 Alderman Jason Snider and Ward 6 Alderwoman Shelley Harrigill voted in favor of it.

Then Bill Wikstrom of Vaporized, joined by owners of Brookhaven Vapery, addressed the board May 21 to request an exemption to the smoking ordinance that passed in April that made it a crime to vape in a vape store.

The board then amended the order “to authorize grandfathered vape shops and any future vape shops to allow sampling of their products inside their stores.”

That motion to amend was made by Grice and seconded by Moore. Cameron, Snider and Harrigill voted in favor of it. Sullivan voted against it and Wilson had left the meeting before the vote was taken.

Grice said Tuesday he voted to amend the ordinance because after hearing from the store owners, he felt the ordinance as written would put them out of business as they claimed.

“The health issue is another issue now,” he said.

“Fletcher, I disagree. The health issue has been there the whole time,” Sullivan said.

“I respectfully disagree with you because the way I remember it, the argument came about because we were going to shut a man down we gave the right to have a business,” he said. “The argument was he had a right, according to our ordinance, that we shouldn’t shut the man down.”

Sullivan said she still doesn’t think vape stores should be exempt from their ordinance just so customers can try the product.

“To me that would be a good thing for them not to be open,” Sullivan said.

Cox said he expects it to be “taken care of at a higher level.”

On Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported its first identified case of a vaping-related lung illness.

Mississippi is the latest state to join in a national investigation into severe pulmonary disease linked to the use of e-cigarette products, or vaping. Nationwide, there have been 380 cases of lung illness reported from 36 states and one U.S. territory. Six deaths have been reported from six states, according to the MSDH.

Most of the cases have reported vaping cannabis products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, or nicotine products, although no single e-cigarette product or device has been consistently identified in all cases, the MSDH report said.

The MSDH said symptoms of severe pulmonary disease include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and fatigue. Symptoms develop anywhere from over a few days of use to weeks of using e-cigarettes.

Until an exact cause of the illness has been determined, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following actions:

• If you are concerned about the health risks, consider refraining from using e-cigarettes or vaping products.

• If you are an adult who used e-cigarettes containing nicotine to quit cigarette smoking, do not return to smoking cigarettes.

• If you have recently used an e-cigarette or vaping product and you have symptoms — cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fever and fatigue — see your healthcare provider.

Additionally, the MSDH reminds Mississippians to not buy products off the street containing THC or other cannabinoids. Do not modify or add substances to e-cigarette products that are not intended by the manufacturer.