Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Capsules of flavored liquid stand ready for sampling on Friday, April 24 at the vape bar of High Voltage Vapes in Kenai.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion Capsules of flavored liquid stand ready for sampling on Friday, April 24 at the vape bar of High Voltage Vapes in Kenai.

Kenai vape shop may face problems from smoking bill

Stephanie Chilton, who with her husband Jamie Chilton co-owns the Kenai e-cigarette store High Voltage Vapes, said that she supports most provisions of an Alaska Senate bill to prohibit smoking in public places. Senate Bill 1, which includes vaping under its definition of smoking, allows an exception for smoking in stores that, like High Voltage Vapes, “derive at least 90 percent of (their) revenue from the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, tobacco… and other smoking or e-cigarette accessories.”

High Voltage Vapes does not sell tobacco or other smokable herb products, but only vape liquids and vaporization equipment. Chilton said that High Voltage’s vape bar, at which customers can sample the vapors of flavored liquids before choosing one to buy, is a major part of the business.

However, one clause in the bill’s definition of a tobacco or e-cigarette store would prohibit customers from sampling High Voltage’s vapor bar within the store. The definition requires a tobacco or e-cigarette store to be “a freestanding building not attached to another business or residence.” High Voltage Vapes is in a strip mall space that shares walls with the businesses on either side of it.

“If it limits us to where we can’t do it (the vape bar) anymore, we’re going to have to move to a freestanding building,” Chilton said. Chilton said that she and her husband, who took ownership of the vape store a little more than a month ago, would prefer not to relocate.

Customers at High Voltage Vapes said the vape bar was an important to the store, both for the social atmosphere it created and for the practical purpose of allowing them to try several flavors before buying one. High Voltage customer Chris Sandstrom said that sampling before purchase is “a critical part” of buying vaporizer liquids.

“Would you buy a car sight unseen?” Sandstrom said. “To not be able to sample it, no way.”

Chilton estimated that she stocked approximately 200 different flavors of vaporizer liquid. Samples at the vape bar are free, although a 30 milliliter bottle of liquid costs between $20 and $30. Under the proposed public smoking prohibition, users would have to step outside with any fluids they wanted to sample. Sandstrom said this would be a great inconvenience.

“Anytime someone wants to sample a product before they buy it, you have to step outside,” Sandstrom said. “Not cool.”

Chilton said that the problem created by the bill’s definition is shared by a majority of vape businesses.

“Most of the vape shops — all the ones in Anchorage — are in strip malls. We’ve actually been in contact with the other owners, and they have plans to make little carts to go outside with their vape bars.”

Chilton said she has no plans to use this alternative.

“I personally think it’s too cold here to do that,” Chilton said. “The cart option could work, come summer time. But if you did that, you’d have to create the cart, set it up with all the liquid, find someone to man the cart and stay outside all day. So no, I don’t want to do a cart.”

Chilton said she has written letters to Juneau about the problem the bill could cause her business, and has encouraged the store’s patrons to do the same. High Voltage Vapes is also a member of a nation-wide advocacy group, the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, for vape-users and businesses.

In addition, Chilton said that she and her husband have given a tour of their shop to Kenai Mayor Pat Porter and attended the April 15 meeting of the Kenai City Council, at which a resolution to support Senate Bill 1 was listed as a pending item on the agenda, but was not debated. The resolution of support had been debated previously at a Kenai council meeting on March 4, during which the council did not reach a conclusion on the issue and voted to postpone discussion on the resolution until their meeting on November 18.

Aside from the clause that leaves her business out of the non-smoking exception, Chilton said she supported the bill’s other points and was in favor of requiring both smokers and vapers to use discretion.

“Jamie and I are for this bill, almost 100 percent,” Chilton said. “I think their exclusion should just exclude retail tobacco and e-cigarette stores — I don’t think they should define what it means to be a retail tobacco and e-cigarette store. I don’t think that’s fair.”

 

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, is shown seated on the House floor on April 29, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Alaska judge keeps Oath Keepers lawmaker on November ballot

Judge Jack McKenna on Thursday ordered elections officials to delay certifying the result of that particular race

An image purportedly from the computer screen of a digital media specialist for Gov. Mike Dunleavy shows numerous files and folders of campaign advertising. A complaint filed against the governor, plus other individuals and organizations, claims administrative staff is illegally doing paid campaign work on behalf of the governor. (Screenshot from complaint filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission)
Dunleavy faces more accusations in campaign complaint

Governor calls it “specious and unfounded.”

A recent photo of Anesha "Duffy" Murnane, missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
A 2019 photo of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane, who went missing since Oct. 17, 2019, in Homer. (Photo provided, Homer Police Department)
Calderwood indicted for murder

Indictment charges man accused of killing Anesha “Duffy” Murnane with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20 of that year. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council gives Triumvirate more time to build theater

The Kenai City Council voted last summer to conditionally donate a 2-acre parcel of city land near Daubenspeck Park and the Kenai Walmart

Leaves fall at the Kenai Senior Center on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Senior Center makes plans for $715,000 endowment

The money comes from the Tamara Diane Cone Testamentary Trust

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
On Thursday morning at what police described as an active crime scene, JPD Officer Austin Thomas and Officer Taylor Davis walk the fielded area which was blocked off by crime scene tape. Multiple tents and a police vehicle sat in the field where the tape surrounded, another police vehicle sat in a dirt parking area.
No arrests made as Juneau death investigation continues

Shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday that a woman’s body was found

Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Damage from the remnants of typhoon Merbok can be seen in Golovin, Alaska, on Sept. 20, 2022. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has requested a federal disaster declaration for areas in western Alaska affected by the storm. (Photo by Jeremy Cubas/Office of the Governor)
Repair work begins in some Alaska towns slammed by storm

About 21,000 people living along a 1,000-mile stretch of Alaska’s western coast were affected by the storm

Camille Broussard testifies in support of an advisory planning commission in Nikiski during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves advisory planning commission for Nikiski

The commission area as petitioned and approved covers just over 3.5 million acres

Most Read