Farmington may change zoning rules for vape shops

With the practice of vaping a “growing problem” among local youth, Farmington city council members on Monday talked about how to better control the businesses that sell e-cigarettes and related products.

Public Safety Director Frank Demers said that, while federal law prohibits selling those items to minors, state laws are still in the works. A teen is caught vaping on school property, for instance, would have only broken Farmington Public Schools rules.

“The only enforcement action he can take is school administrative,” Demers said.

Council members all supported a proposed ban on selling vape products to minors. However, Mayor Steven Schneemann asked about going a step further. He wondered whether the city could restrict vape shop marketing that is targeted to kids. In particular, he mentioned a downtown vape shop’s large front window sign advertising candy.

City attorney Thomas Schultz said while the city could defend a ban on sales to minors, he was less certain about going beyond that. He also cited recent court rulings about signage as evidence that “free speech rules are getting tougher.”

“We’re going to come to you with a sign ordinance that basically says you can have two square feet of area on the sign, and you can say anything you want on it,” Schultz said.

Instead, he suggested that officials consider designating vape shops as regulated businesses, in the same way the city treats adult-oriented businesses.

“Then you may have the authority to look at the signs you have in your window and things like that,” he said. “When a business comes through a special land use process, you can attach conditions to that.”

Officials took no action; draft ordinances are expected on future agendas.