Revised city ordinance requires smoke and hookah shops to have separate air handling units


POSTED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 2:35pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 10:16am

It's been 24 since the city's controversial action against e-cigs and vaping, now affected businesses are taking a closer look at their air systems. As we reported, the vote yesterday means the businesses will have to separate their air flow. We called many shops, most won't have to make any changes because they're isolated, but that isn't the case for one owner in Northeast El Paso with plans for expansion.

A puff of white vapor heads up and away but it won't go far.

"We already have a separate air system installed so it won't affect our business at all,” Jack Blaisdell, owner of Vapolocity in Northeast El Paso said. What he's doing here, he plans on recreating for his second shop. "We are opening another store in the near future in about a month or two and it is going to impact our other store. We're going to have to install a separate air control system."

As part of a revised city ordinance, shops like his will have to separate their air from nearby businesses. "They will now have a little over a year to make sure their air handling units are separate from their neighbors to either side,” Robert Resendes, Director of Public Health El Paso explained.

Any shop which allows customers to smoke, vape, or puff, will have to comply to the new rule by July 1st, 2015. "And we're giving them a year because, you know, there's time to do that and there's time and there's some costs involved,” Resendes said.

Those costs can mean thousands of dollars depending on what kind of upgrades are involved. "It's not going to be cheap,” Blaisdell told us Wednesday. "We understand the purpose behind it and we're going to respect what the city asks us to do."

For Blaisdell, it will also cause some delays for the grand opening of his new shop. "We're kind of close to opening it's going to push back our opening date a little bit,” Blaisdell claimed.

Shops will face a $100 fine if they don't comply by next year. The price goes up every time they're cited. Code enforcement and Fire Inspectors will ensure local shops make the changes to their air systems. E-cigarettes and vaping will no longer be allowed in places where cigarettes are restricted. A 20-foot no smoking zone at public entrances will take effect on September 1st this year. For city-owned buildings these rules will be enforced January 1st. If cited – vape and e-cigarette users also face a $100 fine which may go up for each time they're caught.

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