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Push to regulate vapor shops loses steam in East Brunswick

By STEVEN VIERA
Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — Residents waiting for regulations on the township’s numerous vapor shops will have to keep holding their breath.

At its regular meeting on Aug. 22, East Brunswick’s Township Council tabled a motion that would establish licensing fees for stores that sell electronic smoking devices such as vaporizers, more commonly known as vapes, and e-cigarettes.

Under the ordinance, vape shops and other retailers that sell vapes or related products would be required to pay an initial licensing fee of $250 and renew the license on an annual basis at an additional cost of $75.

“This is a very unregulated business, and the sales of these items do go to minors,” said Councilman James Wendell, who proposed the ordinance in July.

According to Township Clerk Nennette Perry, her office reached out to convenience stores in East Brunswick, such as 7-Eleven and Krauszer’s, to inform them of the pending ordinance, but “most of them weren’t” selling the products in question.

At the Aug. 22 meeting, when the ordinance was up for second reading, only Wendell and Councilwomen Denise Contrino and Camille Ferraro Clark were present; Wendell acted as the meeting’s chair in the absence of Council President Michael Hughes.

When it came time to adopt the vapor shop ordinance, however, Clark moved to table it, expressing frustration with what she deemed as excessive taxation.

“I am starting to get a little concerned over an opportunity on the part of government on all levels to get money from the public, be it businesses [or] individuals,” she said.

Additionally, Clark pointed out that vaping could provide smokers an avenue to help kick the habit, and she questioned imposing regulations on a product that could help curb “a known public health hazard.”

Another area of concern for her was the possibility of large tobacco companies pushing for regulations on vaping to undermine “an industry that clearly is a competition” for them.

“I just want to take a real close look at what we’re doing,” she said.

In her motion to table, Clark requested that the council revisit the ordinance at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 12.

“Councilwoman Clark has some very valid points, and I don’t disagree with her,” Wendell said. “That’s why we were trying to make the fees as inexpensive as possible, but yet many residents have come to me with great concern over the fact that these products are not regulated whatsoever.”

Wendell acknowledged that even though he initially proposed the ordinance, he would be open to hearing discussion from both sides of the issue.

“I can be convinced to go either way — it was my thought, but I’m not banging my foot down and saying it has to be,” he said. “Everybody’s got good points, and I’m sure we’ll come to a very good decision.”

Contact Steven Viera at sviera@gmnews.com.

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