An ordinance in the City of Hernando which would prohibit vaping inside city businesses, including a prohibition of vaping inside a vape store ignited controversy at Tuesday night's city board meeting.
The matter was a discussion item among aldermen and Mayor Tom Ferguson and was tabled for further review. Aldermen discussed a draft ordinance, which and when it is approved, would not go into effect until 30 days after its approval by the board.
Chris Lee, owner of Mid-South Vapors, said he has customers who come inside his shop, located in the Walmart Shopping Center complex, and wish to test out more than 430 different flavors of vapors.
Mid-South Vapors, established in 2013, now has three stores in DeSoto County.
"There is no evidence vaping is harmful to other people," Lee said. "Why other than general fear of vaping are you doing this? We are trying to help people quit smoking. My mother died from lung cancer from smoking. I brought a solution to the county. All we have had are complications. We are not tobacco. If anything, we are anti-tobacco. People fear the unknown."
The City of Hernando already has a smoking ban which was approved in 2007.
That ordinance prohibits smoking inside any city business or public building. Individuals smoking outdoors must be at least 25 feet from the entranceway to any establishment within the city limits.
"We are not banning it in the city, just inside, just indoors," Mayor Tom Ferguson said.
Marcus Ross, Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition, an advocate for the prevention of smoking in teens and adults, disagreed with Lee's assertions that no harmful chemicals were involved in vaping.
"In vaping, there are at least 10 chemicals identified as carcinogens and toxins," Ross said. "Tobacco companies are creating these new vapor products. There is cadmium, battery acids, embalming fluid — these substances are in that aerosol. The Surgeon General has said that vapors can restrict arteries and aggravate asthma. It's a public health issue."
Ward 5 Alderman Cathy Brooks pointed out that vaping aerosols contain nicotine.
"The liquid is nicotine, isn't it?" Brooks said. "How is that helping people get off smoking?"
Ward 3 Alderman Gary Higdon said he was concerned that vaping hooks teenagers on smoking tobacco.
"We don't have any kids in my business," Lee said. "We don't allow anyone under 18 to come into our business. I don't sell to kids."
Alderman at large W.I. "Doc" Harris told Lee that city officials weren't out to harm his business.
"All we're here to say is that they should step outside," Harris said. "If you want to smoke, you should smoke outside."
Ward 6 Alderman Jeff Hobbs took issue with the vaping restrictions.
"Government shouldn't dictate what people do and don't do," Hobbs said.
Lee said his customers just want to try out all the different flavors of vapors.
"You can't go into a liquor store and try every flavor of vodka," Ross said, echoing Brooks.
City Attorney Kenneth Stockton said if an exception was to be made for vaping, it "would have to be tailored very narrowly."
"You would have to entail what the business can sell and what they can supply," Stockton said.
The issue is pending further review by aldermen.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.