An area man who hoped to open an electronic cigarette store along West North Avenue — across the street from Wauwatosa School District property — has withdrawn his request for a conditional use permit, citing opposition at the city level.
Touyer Vang hoped to open Kloudy Conditions Vaporz at 12201 W. North Ave., in the multi-tenant retail building that also houses George Webb. The proposed site is situated across the street from the Wauwatosa Montessori School and district offices.
Vang withdrew his application before a scheduled plan commission meeting Jan. 11. City staff recommended denial of the application due to the proposed proximity to school district property and public health impacts.
'I heard there was a lot of opposition and the city was against it,' Vang said. 'We decided to back out.'
Vang, who moved to the area from Colorado about two months ago, said his hope was the store could help customers quit tobacco smoking, just like the products helped him kick the habit after 20 years.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to users in vapor instead of smoke. They can be manufactured to resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or even everyday items like pens or USB memory sticks. More than 250 different e-cigarette brands are currently on the market.
'Our main thing was to help people quit,' Vang said. 'We're new in this state. From what I can see, the city of Wauwatosa is against it.'
Vang said back in Colorado, e-cigarettes are considered safe, but in Wauwatosa there's greater concern.
Some research backs up the city's concern about impacts to public health.
In city documents, the Wauwatosa Health Department cited information that said the main health risk of e-cigarettes is nicotine overdose and that there is no electronic device product that has yet been evaluated and approved for smoking cessation by a government agency.
In a letter to the Wauwatosa plan commission, Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl and Fred Robinson of Tosa United, an organization that aims to reduce youth risk behavior, explained their opposition to the application.
'E-cigarette use by youth in Wauwatosa, and across the country, is increasing, which clearly raises concerns,' the letter said. 'When youth start smoking early in adolescence, they are at greater risk of becoming regular tobaccos users in adulthood and then becoming a victim of tobacco-related illnesses.'
E-cigarettes in Wauwatosa
In recent years, e-cigarettes have been a frequent topic in Wauwatosa.
In September 2014, the Wauwatosa plan commission rejected Vape Haven's proposal to open an e-cigarette store on North Avenue in East Tosa. Some city officials said the proposal simply didn't align with the vision for the eastern stretch of North Avenue.
Also, in February 2015, the city of Wauwatosa established a ban of electronic smoking devices in city buildings and city property due to public health impacts.
As for Vang, he said he plans to take his business elsewhere, but doesn't have any specific municipality in mind.
'Wherever it's wanted,' he said.