NJ Health Officials Fine Vendors and Organizers at Ecig Expo
Vapers flocked to New Jersey last weekend for the much-anticipated “Vape Expo NJ” that featured dozens of ecig vendors and an opportunity to sample hundreds of new eliquids in one convenient location. Unfortunately, the event was rudely interrupted when local and county health officials showed up and starting fining the expo hall manager, event promoters, and vendors for violating the New Jersey indoor smoke-free air law. When all was said and done, officials had issued 66 citations totaling around $50,000 in fines.
Jay Elliot, director for the local Division of Health and Human Services, shut down the expo four hours early on Sunday. Event promoters Andy Balogh and Don Miller were each issued 27 summonses. Some attendees were also cited for vaping indoors during the expo, but Balogh has offered to pay the fines for those unfortunate vapers. He also said that he intends to challenge the citations because he believes officials have illegally applied the indoor smoke-free air law to a private building. “The township signed off. They knew there would be vaping,” he said.
Elliot said officials agreed to the expo believing it was a private trade show. “It was effectively open to the public as long as patrons paid the $10 entry fee, vendors paid $25, and signed a document saying they were joining a club called the Vape Expo NJ 2015.” Elliot argued that health officials never approved the use of ecigs indoors. “We worked with them for a couple of days, and I won’t say no effort was made.” He said the health department allowed an outdoor vaping area to be added on Saturday for the event but by Sunday, they shut the whole expo down. “Bottom line, it’s just not working.”
The expo hall’s general manager, Joseph Cascio, said he believed the event promoters had already cleared the event with the township. When the health officials showed up complaining about violations, he said he handed out flyers and posted warnings so that people would not vape indoors. “We acted right away,” Cascio said. “We put sampling tables outside.”
Karen Blumenfeld, director of the Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy, said the event was never open for indoor vaping and was marketed inappropriately. She said no private club or membership would exempt people from following a statewide smoke-free air law.
Although vendors only allowed sampling of eliquids with zero nicotine, there was still a huge fog of vapor hanging inside the exhibit hall. When the health department showed up on Saturday and started handing out citations, a lot of visitors and vendors starting packing up to leave. Now many of those vendors are demanding refunds. “If we had any idea this was going to happen, we would never have gone to Edison,” Balogh said.
Do you think the health department was out of line by issuing citations? Should the expo promoters have taken extra steps to insure that vendors and attendees were protected?