Officials Force Montana Vape Shops to Apply for New License

Montana lawmakers sent out 1,800 postcards this week, reminding vape shops to apply for a new license right away if they wanted to continue selling vaping devices and eliquids in 2016. Officials recently mandated that retailers apply for a license each year so that vape shops can be more easily regulated. The $5 license will be valid for a year and beginning on January 1, 2016, it will be illegal to sell eliquids or vape products without it.

Republican Attorney General Tim Fox partnered with Democratic Senator Diane Sands to introduce this new rule as part of a bipartisan bill. Until now, vaping products have been mostly unregulated in Montana. Lawmakers decided to outlaw vapor sales to minors and require retailer licensing because of growing concerns about how vaping might impact the state’s teens.

For vape shop owners, the new license is just one more hurdle to cross. Many are already fearful of FDA regulations rumored to begin in the spring. Retailers who continue to sell vapor products without the proper license are at risk for getting a $100.00 fine. It is unclear what happens if retailers fail to get a license, receive a fine, and then continue to sell these products. Officials feel confident that the state’s vape stores will comply since the license is inexpensive and relatively easy to acquire.

“We want to keep things within a manageable arena for public health and safety reason. It’s the same reason that we license tobacco, and that we give you a driver’s license,” remarked Mary Ann Dunwell, a Department of Revenue spokeswoman.

While the new rule might seem annoying to some, most vape shop owners actually support the idea of a license devoted entirely to vapor products. Ron Marshall, owner of Freedom Vapes, actually helped write the bill that implemented the licensing requirement. “It was written so that we could prohibit sales to minors without labeling vapor products as tobacco products,” he explained. “That’s why there is a separate license for tobacco retailers and vape retailers.” Remarkably, Montana is the only state to ever distinguish vapor devices as separate from tobacco products by law.

Do you think Montana’s officials are taking a balanced approach to vape regulation? Should other states follow their lead?

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