The measure passed the Madison Plan Commission Monday and will move to the full council. It prohibits new tobacco and e-cigarette stores from opening within 1000 feet of a school, day-care, playground, youth center, park, library or health care facility. A shop could also not open within 500 feet of a place where tobacco or e-cigarettes are currently sold.
Rick Gundermann, a co-owner of Puff Vapor, an e-cigarette store, opposes the ordinance.
“If we would ever have to move from this shop, there will be almost no place in Madison where we could move,” Gundermann said. “So the landlord could raise the rent seeing that we have no other options.”
Ald. Steve King, a member of the plan commission that voted for the ordinance, says it was important that tobacco and e-cigarettes have the same standards.
“We have to listen to our constituents and they're telling us to treat them like cigarettes,” Ald King said.
And he says existing shops, which would be allowed to stay in place, could actually have an advantage-- because there are few places a competitor could locate.
“In the case of the e-cigarettes, and the vaping shops, what we essentially granted them is a monopoly,” he said.
Mayor Paul Soglin sponsored the legislation and in a letter to the plan commission urged the measure be passed.
“These regulations will ensure that Madison continues to do its part to combat the overall harmful effects smoking continues to have on our citizens,” Soglin wrote in his letter. “Importantly, the ordinance also includes “vaping” or e-cigarette sales within the definition of tobacco retailers. Given what we know about vaping, these establishments should absolutely be included as part of these regulations.”
But Gundermann says the ordinance unfairly lumps vaping and smoking together. He also says it disproportionately effects small businesses, like Puff Vapor, and not big box stores or gas stations, because the ordinance only applies to stores where 20 percent or more of the floor area is dedicated to tobacco or vaping products.
Ald. King says he agrees and would like to tighten restrictions those businesses as well.
“I think that's a really fair criticism, but they're not totally unregulated,” Ald. King said. “I do think that that's an avenue that we should actually explore.”
Gundermann says, however, if the measure passes the full council, any expansion of his business will have to be outside the city.
“Quite honestly we already are being pushed out of the city.”