RICHARDSON — Richardson city leaders will soon consider making it more difficult for electronic cigarette stores to open.
Currently, all e-cigarette stores need to open in Richardson is a certificate of occupancy. Some leaders have proposed a requirement for business owners to obtain a special use permit, much like hookah bars and cigar lounges.
Over the last 10 weeks, eight stores selling e-cigarettes have either opened or applied to open. Currently, there are no zoning rules in Richardson pertaining to the businesses.
The use of e-cigarettes is also known as "vaping." The devices use a small heating element that turns a flavored liquid into vapor. It's an electronic substitute to help people quit smoking and an unregulated, potentially untapped business.
"It kind of blew up the last couple of years," said Justin Portillo, who uses e-cigarettes. "Everywhere you go now you see them."
Tracy Jones owns two e-cigarette stores, one in Plano and one in Richardson.
"Convenient stores are all over the place and they sell alcohol," Jones said. "Vaping doesn't kill anybody. But, if you drink alcohol, you can get in a car and kill someone. It doesn't seem like there's regulations for convenience stores so why would you want to regulate something that helps people?"
Portillo said he doesn't like the idea either.
"I see them popping up all over the place," Portillo said. "I see liquor stores more than I see these places and I just don't think it's correct."
But, city officials say they want the ability to decide designated areas for the specialty shops on a case by case basis.
"We will look at things like parking, traffic patterns, hours of operation," said Don Magner, Richardson’s assistant city manager. "We want to make sure these things are appropriate for the proposed locations because these businesses are so new, we just don't know what impact they may have, particularly if they cluster and locate near each other."
With the explosion of e-cigarette stores, other cities across North Texas are likely to face similar issues. Richardson city council members are expected to discuss the proposal next month.