Leaders of Mississippi city say they regret earlier support for vaping business

Published 8:59 am Friday, September 20, 2019

A Brookhaven alderman expressed regret Tuesday at a vote earlier this year that supported vaping businesses in the city.

“I supported it when it came about but I’m having some reservations about it now, I’m almost to the point that I’m sorry I supported it,” Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron said during a board meeting Tuesday.

“You stole my thunder,” said Mayor Joe Cox, who had recently talked to city attorney Joe Fernald about the subject.

“Joe and I have been discussing that, and we’re real concerned about vaping and the lipoid pneumonia that’s being caused by that. The FDA is looking at it,” he said.

Alderwoman-at-Large Karen Sullivan, who is a vocal advocate for the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Copiah and Lincoln Counties, asked if they could deny any other vape stores from opening in the city. Vapor World recently opened on Brookway Boulevard, becoming the third vape store in Brookhaven.

“Can we at least have a moratorium?” she asked.

“We are looking into that,” Cox said. “The FDA and the state are probably going to deal with it before we do.”

The board voted April 22 to adopt a Brookhaven Smoke Free Ordinance, with Sullivan as the lone vote against it due to some of the items included. Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore, Ward 3 Alderwoman Mary Wilson and Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice were absent from that special-called meeting. Cameron along with Ward 4 Alderman Jason Snider and Ward 6 Alderwoman Shelley Harrigill voted in favor of it.

Then Bill Wikstrom of Vaporized, joined by owners of Brookhaven Vapery, addressed the board May 21 to request an exemption to the smoking ordinance that passed in April that made it a crime to vape in a vape store.

The board then amended the order “to authorize grandfathered vape shops and any future vape shops to allow sampling of their products inside their stores.”

That motion to amend was made by Grice and seconded by Moore. Cameron, Snider and Harrigill voted in favor of it. Sullivan voted against it and Wilson had left the meeting before the vote was taken.

Grice said Tuesday he voted to amend the ordinance because after hearing from the store owners, he felt the ordinance as written would put them out of business as they claimed.

“The health issue is another issue now,” he said.

“Fletcher, I disagree. The health issue has been there the whole time,” Sullivan said.

“I respectfully disagree with you because the way I remember it, the argument came about because we were going to shut a man down we gave the right to have a business,” he said. “The argument was he had a right, according to our ordinance, that we shouldn’t shut the man down.”

Sullivan said she still doesn’t think vape stores should be exempt from their ordinance just so customers can try the product.

“To me that would be a good thing for them not to be open,” Sullivan said.

Cox said he expects it to be “taken care of at a higher level.”