Bellflower places moratorium on shops selling e-cigarettes
September 27, 2013
By Arnold Adler
BELLFLOWER — The City Council Monday night joined Norwalk and Seal Beach in putting a hold on new permits for the sale of electronic cigarettes, citing a need to learn about them and set up zoning regulations.
While Norwalk’s freeze is on all new tobacco shops that might sell e-cigarettes, Bellflower’s moratorium is only on the product.
Planning Director Rafael Guzman said the ban would expire Oct. 29, but can be extended twice more for up to two years under state law.
He said there is currently just one store selling the product, Uncle Junk’s Genius Juice, which received a permit last March to operate at 17038 Bellflower Blvd., but there have been many inquiries for such shops.
E-cigarettes are plastic battery-charged cylinders that heat up liquid nicotine or other flavored products which turn into vapor, not smoke, thus they are considered less dangerous than tobacco.
They may sell for $60 to $150, depending on the manufacturer and the battery can be recharged, said Guzman in a written report to the council.
He said the device was first introduced into the United States in 2007 as a means of weaning smokers off tobacco, but city staff fears marijuana or other illegal drugs may also be used.
Besides a nicotine flavor, the device can offer flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy, thus could attract children, Guzman said.
“There is a potential for abuse,” he said, adding that the New England Journal of Medicine has said the device is not helpful to smokers.
That was disputed by Jeff Harris, owner and operator of Uncle Junk’s store, who said the device helped him quite smoking after 35 years.
Testimony also came from Pamela Cube, who said she is the mother of four and quit smoking after 20 years thanks to the e-cigarette.
Harris, whose store is not affected by the ban, said he was an electrical engineer but several years ago got interested in the e-cigarette and decided to go into the business.
Questioned by council members, Harris said business is growing and he has received many letters from customers saying the device helped them stop smoking.
He noted that he manufactures the device himself, obtaining liquid nicotine from tobacco leaves
Cube said she plans to open a business in Bellflower manufacturing the liquid substance, but had not yet received a permit.
“It’s the wave of the future,” said Harris, who said he expects the industry to grow.
“If you help people get off smoking, I see nothing wrong with that,” City Councilman Dan Koops said.
“I have been trying to get my wife to stop smoking for 30 years,” said Councilman Ron Schnablegger, who said he would suggest the electronic cigarettes to her.