‘Sleepless nights’ — NJ vape shops feel blindsided by calls for bans
The e-cigarette/vaping industry has been under fire more than usual over the past several days.
They're setbacks for shops that promote themselves as suppliers of a "healthier alternative" to traditional cigarettes. The President of the United States has said he'd pursue a ban on flavors used in e-cigarettes, New Jersey's governor created a task force to investigate the dangers posed by vaping, and the Garden State's senior U.S. Senator called for a moratorium on the sale of vaping products — all since Sept. 11.
"I've had so far, I guess about five sleepless nights," said Andrea DiPaolo, owner of Vaporistic, which has four locations in the Garden State. "I'm very, very concerned on where we're at with this issue, both on a state level as well as on a national level."
DiPaolo was a smoker herself — two packs a day since age 14, she said. That's until she kicked the habit at 59 when she discovered vaping products, which still provide DiPaolo with addictive nicotine but eliminate most carcinogens associated with smoking a combustible cigarette.
"If the government bans these types of flavors, I think we're going to have a major, major problem," DiPaolo said.
The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey cited a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school students between 2017 and 2018. Those concerned that vaping is creating a new generation of addicted citizens argue that the probblem would not be as extensive if flavors such as mint, strawberry, and cotton candy — which seem appealing to minors — were unavailable.
DiPaolo said it's flavors like these, specifically blueberry, that helped her dissociate e-cigarette use from regular smoking.
The cascade of attacks on the industry by elected leaders come as health professionals investigate more than 380 cases lung disease in 36 states, including New Jersey, in people who've used vaping products. Six deaths have been reported from six states.
According to the CDC, most patients reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. Many patients, meanwhile, reported vaping both THC and nicotine. The CDC stresses it doesn't know the specific cause of the illnesses.
New Jersey shops are prohibited from selling products with THC; store owners say the vaping products in question were not sold in stores anyway, but on the street.
Nick Jurczyk, operations manager at Beachwood-based Gorilla Vapes, said the shock-and-awe headlines have made an impact on revenue.
"Our business has declined about 25% over the last few weeks," Jurczyk said.
He and his father were drawn to the industry when vaping "saved their lives" by helping them ween off traditional cigarettes.
"Our goal from day one has been to reduce the harm," he said. "Most of our clientele are ex-smokers."
In New Jersey, one must be at least 21 years old to purchase e-liquid and other vaping products.
Chris Nice, owner of NJ VapeZone in Toms River, said his shop asks for identification from anyone who enters the store. Nice said parents may be purchasing products for their children, and there should be repercussions for that. But an all-out ban is far-fetched.
"I think there's too many people that know the truth about vaping," Nice said.
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