Lagana Bill to Allow for the Establishment of “Vapor Lounges” in New Jersey Advanced by Assembly Panel

Burgeoning Electronic Smoking Industry Could Provide Boon to Towns

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) to boost local economies by allowing the establishment of “vapor lounges” was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.

“The electronic cigarette and vaporizer industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years,” said Lagana. “Allowing for the establishment of vapor lounges could prove a serious economic boost for many municipalities. In much the same way we carved out an exemption for consenting adults to enjoy cigar lounges, this bill would provide a similar allowance.”

Lagana noted that the electronic cigarette industry, widely considered a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, is now estimated to be a $1.5 billion market and sales are set to grow 24.2 percent per year through 2018, according to new projections from Research and Markets.

The bill (A-4428) would amend the “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act” to permit the use of electronic smoking devices in vapor lounges. The bill would not permit smoking traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes or cigars, in vapor lounges.

The bill defines a vapor lounge as any establishment, or area within an establishment, designated specifically for the use of electronic smoking devices and related products purchased on the premises or elsewhere, in which at least 51 percent of retail business is the sale of electronic smoking device products and accessories, and in which the sale of other products is merely incidental.

A vapor lounge that is in an area within an establishment would be required to be enclosed by solid walls or windows, a ceiling, and a solid door, and equipped with a ventilation system which is separately exhausted from the non-smoking areas of the establishment, so that air from the smoking area is not re-circulated to the non-smoking areas and smoke and vapor are not backstreamed into the non-smoking areas.

The bill also clarifies the definition of “electronic smoking device” to include personal vaporizers, in addition to electronic cigarettes.

The bill would authorize a municipality to adopt an ordinance allowing certain vapor lounges within the municipality that are exempt from the provisions of the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act.” The ordinance would set forth how many such lounges may open and operate within the municipality.

If a municipality adopts such an ordinance, a prospective vapor lounge would have to apply to the local board of health in the municipality for a registration to open and operate in the municipality. The local board of health may only grant such application if the lounge will: not sell or serve food or alcoholic beverages; not be located within a bar or restaurant; have an entrance distinct from any other establishment and directly accessible by the public; be equipped with an exhaust system appropriate to ensure worker and customer safety; and not permit the use of any hookah to smoke tobacco or non-tobacco products anywhere on the premises.

The bill requires a vapor lounge to renew its registration annually. The local board of health may only renew a registration if the vapor lounge generates 51 percent or more of its total annual gross income from the on-site sale of electronic smoking device products and accessories, continues to comply with all the requirements of the initial registration, replaces the filter of the exhaust system, and does not expand its size or change its location. If a vapor lounge fails to have its registration renewed, its owner would not be permitted to register another vapor lounge.

The bill would take effect on the first day of the seventh month following the date of enactment. It was approved by the Assembly Commerce Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.