RIDGELAND - City officials have classified electronic smoking device retailers in the same group as pawn shops, nail salons and tattoo parlors.

During a meeting last week, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to add electronic tobacco retailers to the restricted use definition in the city's zoning code.

Future businesses that wish to open up retail stores for electronic smoking devices will have to go through a longer approval/permitting process before receiving a license to operate.

The city defines an electronic smoking device retailer as a store where devices and related products account for more than 30 percent of gross sales area, 500 square feet of retail space or greater or 30 percent of gross sales.

This does not ban retailers that do not exceed these requirements from selling the product.

Electronic smoking devices, or 'E-cigs,' produce a vapor that is inhaled and offered as an alternative to smoking. The practice is called vaping.

Alderman Chuck Gautier asked, "Why can't we just ban them outright?"

He compared E-cigs, a relatively young product, to something like "Bath Salts," synthetic drugs that were sold in gas stations, but were later banned when they proved to be dangerous after they were further investigated.
Alan Hart, director of Community Development, said that, "this was the most restrictive definition we could find."

Existing retailers that fall under this restriction have until Feb. 4, 2019, to register.

This has caused a new batch of problems for some existing business owners.
Mike Jefcoat, owner of Magnolia Vapes on Highway 51 in Ridgeland, said that the city has caused "a conundrum amongst themselves."

"We will have to register within the five-year period," Jefcoat said. "Other than that we do not plan to change anything about the way we operate at this time."

Jefcoat said despite the confusion they are gladly working the city of Ridgeland.

Magnolia Vapes has been open for a year and two months.

Hart said that the restrictions are part of a larger batch of amendments passed that mostly corrects clerical errors in a 2014 ordinance.

"The amendments were to address various clerical and administrative errors discovered since the passage of the City's 2014 Zoning Ordinance and to address development trends of certain uses have resulted in the need to consider appropriate locations and restrictions."

The amendment also added any businesses selling marijuana, excluding medical marijuana, to the restricted use definition.

Currently, the city has restricted use designation for pawn shops, tattoo parlors, title loan establishments, check-cashing establishments, businesses purchasing gold or other precious metals as a primary business, nail salons as a primary business, bail bondsmen, tobacco and beer retailer, tobacco retailer, blood and/or plasma donation center, or any combination thereof.