Stores that sell bong pipes and other “non-traditional” smoking devices will have to obtain a Forsyth County license if a newly proposed ordinance is passed.
Commissioners voted 5-0 at a work session Tuesday to hold the necessary public hearings prior to passing a code section “regulating the sale of non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia.”
The ordinance would require businesses selling the devices, as defined in the code, to obtain a county license for a fee based on the administrative costs, said Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
The licensee would then be required to maintain a registry of the names and addresses of people who purchased non-traditional tobacco paraphernalia for at least one year, Jarrard said.
Bongs and hookah pipes are examples of non-traditional paraphernalia given in the code, though a full list is not provided.
Devices that would be excluded from the code are described as “cigarette papers or wrapper, blunt wraps, traditional tobacco pipes, holders, cigarette rolling machines or other products, devices or substances used for the purposes of making cigarettes or tobacco.”
“You can do the same thing with both sorts of devices,” Jarrard said. “We’re calling out one … so you’re making a decision based on how one looks, but the reality is they do function a little differently.
“The reality is also you find more of these types of things at different arrest situations.”
Local law enforcement will be invited to speak at the public hearing to explain why certain tobacco smoking devices could fall under the law.
Jarrard emphasized the importance of that reasoning for a possible lawsuit to the county if the code is approved.
“Whenever you do something novel like this to try and regulate something, you can expect a challenge,” he said. “There’s probably some stakeholders who make money off selling this sort of stuff, and to the extent we make it harder for merchants to sell it, they may not like it. So we have got to come up with a reason why we are regulating this.”
The board expressed interest in such measures during a recent meeting.
Since the state already bans drug paraphernalia, the county had to get “creative” in considering code to regulate sales of the non-traditional devices, Jarrard said.
Commissioner Todd Levent said the proposed ordinance would “cover the loopholes” rather than repeat existing state law.
During a previous commission meeting, Levent described several stores in the county that sell such merchandise.
Chairman Pete Amos said putting such regulations in place could simply cause stores to move into Cumming city limits to avoid the license requirements.
The first public hearing could be held May 2.