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Planning and Zoning Commission reveals potential ban on smoke shops in Westport

Zara Saliba ’26
To implement the ban on new smoke shops in Westport, several changes must be made to existing laws, including banning smoke shops from all zoning districts and requiring special permits to sell tobacco products.

Several Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) members proposed a new ban to eliminate new smoke shops and signage being built in Westport, according to their discussion on Oct. 16. 

Most commissioners, including Commission Board Chair Danielle Dobin, requested that an amendment be passed to prohibit new smoke shops in all zoning districts. This amendment would have to modify section 31 of the Westport Planning and Zoning regulations to be successful. 

“In the future, any store that sells anything related [to] smoking, vaping or paraphernalia, for example a drugstore, supermarket, gas station or convenience store would require a special permit,” Dobin said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is looking to add signage restrictions as well, including banning tobacco and nicotine advertisements from being visible through a building’s windows. 

“Any existing smoke shops that are open would be grandfathered,” Dobin said. “Their signs, however, and the signs from other stores that aren’t related to smoke shops at all may not remain legal.”

The P&Z Commission hosted a meeting on Nov. 13 to discuss this ban in front of the general public so residents could vote on whether they’re for or against it. The Commission board will still have the deciding vote, but the opinion of the people plays a part in that choice.

No new smoke shops would be allowed to open, so there’s no permitting process for something that exclusively sells inventory related to smoking.

— Commission Board Chair Danielle Dobin

“There are a few different questions [we had to ask],” Dobin said. “One is, how is the public reacting to this concept? Are they supportive or are they opposed?”

According to the explanatory statement issued after the Oct. 16 meeting, the P&Z Commission discussed public health concerns associated with the smoke shops in town. All the neon signage attracts attention from drivers on the road, which was one of the leading health concerns that prompted the ban. At least one smoke shop has already been reported to be selling illegal merchandise according to the Westport Police Department. 

 The four locations along Post Road are also very close to neighborhoods, which angers Westport residents.

“I am frustrated by the Savvy Smoker shop that opened near me,” Addison Welling ’26 said. “We have so many smoke shops. We don’t need another one.” 

Cannabis-specific establishments have different regulations than regular smoke shops: in order to be considered a smoke shop, 20% of the store’s inventory has to be related in some way to smoking or vaping. Towns are often much stricter in where cannabis establishments can be built. 

“No new smoke shops would be allowed to open, so there’s no permitting process for something that exclusively sells inventory related to smoking,” Dobin said.

The P&Z Commission has prepared to modify the rules for existing smoke shops, requiring the shops to obtain a permit from the P&Z Commission to remain in business.  Additionally, because smoke shops in Westport are considered retail businesses, they need administrative approval to operate. So far, only two of the smoke shops have acquired the mandated Planning & Zoning approval. The other two, however, have been sent notices to receive this approval since they didn’t get it when they opened. 

“If the special permit is denied or if they chose just to ignore the regulations, [smoke shops] would receive a letter from the town that they were in violation,” Dobin said, “and then these would begin to be excised once they didn’t adhere to the regulations.”

The ban on smoke shops will have no impact on other locations where tobacco and nicotine products are for sale. According to an email available on the P&Z website, the Health District has no objections regarding what this amendment seeks to accomplish at this time. 

“We really try to give a fair shake to everything that comes in front of the P&Z,” Dobin said. “When we are given an application we want to articulate all the information on the record in front of everybody while it’s being televised, live streamed and recorded.” 

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About the Contributor
Sophie Smith ’26
Sophie Smith ’26, Paper Sports Editor
  Sophie Smith ’26 is excited to enter her first year of Inklings as a paper sports editor. She was interested in joining Inklings due to her love for reading and English.  “I enjoy reading and I believe English is my strong subject,” Smith said.  Another interest for Smith is being  a leader of Peter's Heart Club..  “My grandfather has a non-profit organization that works with vulnerable children in Uganda, ” Smith said. “I went to Uganda this summer and I am starting a club to raise money”   

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    Daniel GasconNov 16, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    I think halting new smoke shops is a good thing. It has been known by international scientists that if these shops get built, the health of the consumers will be harmed, so doing other things instead of smoking shops is best for every place, so people will be healthy rather than smoke. Thanks for this article about the bad effects of facilitating smoking.