Rock Island bans new vape shops for six months

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 11:35 PM CDT
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ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - The Rock Island City Council unanimously approved a six-month ban on any new vape shops opening within city limits at Monday’s meeting.

Officials aren’t quite sure how many vape-specific shops are operating in the city. They believe there are about six and say many of them line 18th Avenue. With the current tobacco licensing system, city staff claimed keeping track of vape stores isn’t feasible.

“We’re not anti-business,” Mayor Mike Thoms said. “We love to have entrepreneurs, we love new businesses. There are just certain types of business that we should moderate and make sure that we don’t overdo”

Even with this new temporary ban on vape shops, it will be business as usual for Todd Smith, owner of The Vaporosity Shop on 14th Avenue. He thinks there are pros and cons to a ban and said Rock Island is over-saturated with vape stores.

“It’ll let the business owners that are already there, you know compete for business instead of new shops coming in,” Smith said. I’ve been in this industry over 10 years, and I’ve seen them come and go.”

Thoms shared that sentiment. He said people asked the council to do something about the number of similar stores popping up.

“We’ve had a few unfortunate situations, they’ve been robbed,” Thoms said. “They’re concerned that it is drawing a crowd that they prefer not to have. They also aesthetically ... with the neon lights, the flashing lights and, and that sort of thing, felt that it was not the best image that we wanted in the city”

Rock Island’s current tobacco licensing system dates back to 1996. It only outlines products that contain tobacco leaf which includes things like cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. It doesn’t specifically outline vaping devices.

Monday’s approval will give the city some time to figure out what to do, whether that means an updated licensing system to include vape products or proximity-based ordinances.

“In a lot of respects, this is a statement of principle,” the city’s Community and Economic Development Director, Miles Brainard, said.”The council is giving a clear direction to staff to work on this.”

Even with a short ban, Smith doesn’t think the city should do much more.

“Leave us alone. Keep doing your stings ... Send an 18-year-old in there, somebody under the age of 21, to check my employees,” Smith said. “Being this business for [more than 10 years]. I don’t think there is anything else they can do at all.”

The city’s temporary ban of new stores coincided with the FDA’s ban of Juul brand e-cigarettes last week. According to Thoms, city staff has been working on the moratorium for a few weeks.

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