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Board attaches higher fees to vape shops in Forsyth County

May tie non-traditional tobacco ordinance violations to alcohol license

 
POSTED: February 10, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Kelly Whitmire/

Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved new rules for stores selling “non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia, e-cigarettes and alternative nicotine products.”

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Changes are coming to vape shops and certain gas stations in Forsyth County.

At a recent work session, Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved new rules for stores selling “non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia, e-cigarettes and alternative nicotine products.”

“This ordinance has two components,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said. “One of them, of course, is prohibitions and permitting requirements with respect to non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia, and the other is a ‘vape store’ or vaping section of the ordinance.”

The new ordinance means retailers who sell non-traditional paraphernalia must pay $2,000 per year and $250 per year “for each additional line of devices” sold.

Device lines are divided into four categories: grinders; storage devices with false or hidden doors or compartments; weighing devices commonly associated with tobacco, vaping or drug use; and torch lighters.

Vaping and smoking will also be prohibited at such stores unless there is a dehumidifier on premises. The ordinance also sets out which chemicals are authorized and must be posted on a sign, and stores cannot mix or prepare vape juice at stores that sell directly to customers.

One change made after the last public hearing is that new stores will not be allowed to open within 100 yards of a church or 200 yards of a school.

Changes to the county’s unified development code require two public hearings. Four hearings were held as commissioners honed in on the ordinance, and there were no speakers at the meeting.

The rules will go into effect in early May — 90 days after commission approval — to give law enforcement time to get familiar with the new rules.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she had contacted Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt to let him know about the ordinance.

“Our concern is we would adopt it and push them to the city,” she said.

Mills said she has also heard from other municipalities.

“I think this is a really good thing we’ve done, and we’re already getting other counties that are calling and wanting it and looking at it,” she said.

Another item was discussed to make any violations tied to a county alcohol license.

“The idea arose that perhaps to put some teeth to the non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia ordinance, it might make sense to link an offense … to the alcohol code,” Jarrard said. “The reason being is that many of the same vendors that sell tobacco paraphernalia also sell alcohol and, candidly, probably the financial incentive to hold on to that alcohol license may be more than it is to hold onto the non-traditional tobacco permit.”

An alcohol violation can come from a business not displaying its county license to sell alcohol, violating the ordinance, selling to underage customers and not screening products.

There were no public comment speakers on the alcohol code connection, and the commission will discuss the ordinance at its March 2 meeting.

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