Utah's first 'Vapor Fest' in Ogden will celebrate e-cigarettes

Wednesday , April 16, 2014 - 6:07 PM

Cathy McKitrick, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The Weber County Fairgrounds will host Utah’s first “Vapor Fest” this June.

Crystal Jojola, who runs Grand Events Utah with her husband John Furse, said the June 21 event will feature local vapor shops along with other vendors, food and music.

“Our target audience are people 19 and older who vape,” Jojola said. “We will have very strong enforced rules that everyone will be ID’d at the door.”

Vaping refers to the use of battery-powered electronic cigarettes that deliver inhalable vapor that contains varied levels of nicotine and flavorings depending on the type of “e-juice” the consumer selects.

In Utah, e-cigarettes are regulated in similar fashion to their tobacco counterparts when it comes to age-limited use and restrictions set forth in the state’s Indoor Clean Air Act.

According to the Weber-Morgan Health Department’s website, http://www.webermorganhealth.org/second_hand_smoke.php, the Act prohibits the use of lit tobacco products, hookah and electronic cigarettes in indoor places of public access and within 25 feet of any entrance, exit, open window or air intake of buildings where smoking is barred.

Smoking and vaping is also banned in outdoor public places such as playgrounds, recreational areas, amphitheaters, fairgrounds, sports fields, amusement parks, swimming pools, cemeteries, walking/running trails, skate parks, etc.

Jojola contracted with Weber County to rent the outdoor courtyard at the Golden Spike Events Center for $500. The Vapor Fest also must pay $810 for Sheriff’s Security Service — $45 per hour for three sheriff’s deputies who will police the area for six hours.

“It’s a really nice piece of business for us, the first of its kind out there, andon a good date when we can use the business,” said Jim Harvey, general manager for Weber’s Golden Spike Events Center.

Jennifer Graham, Weber County’s recreation facilities director, said that participants in the outdoor event will be confined to specific smoking areas when vaping.

There are currently two designated smoking zones, and Graham said they might establish some additional temporary areas to accommodate this event.

“It depends on their ticket sales,” Graham said. “We did something similar when we had the World Cup Archery event here,” that drew a large international crowd and drove the need for more smoking zones.

The use of e-cigarettes has exploded in recent years, arousing significant controversy because of questions surrounding their safety.

According to Consumer Reports, the Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate e-cigarettes and related products, but the federal agency is expected to establish restrictions concerning their advertising and sale to minors, and could also require disclosure of ingredients and compliance with certain manufacturing standards.

While e-cigarettes expose people to fewer toxins that tobacco cigarettes, the Consumers Union warned that they’re not necessarily risk-free.

“The unchecked ability of e-cigarette retailers to make broad and enticing claims that aren’t necessarily supported by evidence is but one more reason Consumer Reports thinks the FDA needs to get moving on regulations,” the organization posted on its website.

Aaron Frazier heads up Utah Vapers, a Salt Lake City-based advocacy and trade organization that fights for the rights of retailers and adult consumers who choose to vape.

“I was a 24-year smoker, a pack and a half per day, that quit overnight with this,” Frazier said, adding that he had unsuccessfully tried to kick the tobacco habit at least a dozen times using other cessation tools.

While Utah Vapersstarted out as a support group, Frazier said it soon grew into an education and advocacy organization that aims to be proactive about keeping such products off-limits to underage users.

The group’s website also lists several published studies at http://utahvapers.com/science/science/research.html.

“Electronic cigarettes mimic the psychological and physiological aspects of smoking,” Frazier said. “For someone who hasn’t been addicted or obsessive-compulsive about anything, they likely wouldn’t understand.”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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