Tallahassee vape shop owners react to potential flavor ban

By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 13, 2019

One vape shop owner in Tallahassee said a ban on flavors would hurt their cash flow significantly.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Florida health officials are investigating breathing illnesses reported in people who use e-cigarettes or vaping products. Many of the cases throughout the nation involve marijuana vaping.

Youth vaping in Florida was on the decline in 2016, but those numbers spiked in 2018. After multiple cases of nicotine poisoning, the federal government proposed a total ban on flavored vapes and e-cigarettes on Wednesday.

The owner of Just Vapin' CBD and Vape Depot in Tallahassee said his store would be in major financial trouble if a flavor ban were in place.

"Oh, in effect, it's going to put us out of business," owner Jim Hampton said.

Hampton said his store carries conventional vape products. He said they're designed to wean people off of nicotine, using a process called step down therapy.

"Provide the user an opportunity to go from an 18 milligram of nicotine, down to 0 milligrams," Hampton said. "So, it's very similar to the patch."

He said Juul is much stronger. The original pods offered 59 milligrams of nicotine each.

"That is far in comparison to the highest level that we used to offer is 18," Hampton said. "Now, most prevalent is 3 and 6 milligrams."

Hampton said flavors have a purpose in the industry. He started vaping seven years ago. He said he'd intentionally chose the caramel Irish cream flavor.

"If I was vaping anything that was so close to the taste of a cigarette, my chances of going back to smoking cigarettes was certainly increased," he said.

The general and marketing manager of Xtreme Gift and Vape Shop said the majority of their business comes from Juul, and products similar to it, sales.

"It would affect us tremendously," manager Victoria Poppell said. "At least 45 to 50 percent of our sales comes from disposable pens and the Juul cartridges."

She said they've already seeing a decline in customers.

"In two weeks, we've seen a huge drop in sales."

Poppell said Xtreme Gift and Vape Shop is currently succeeding by diversifying its products.

"It's kept us alive," she said. "If we were strictly just a vape shop, we would be running in the red."

Both businesses agree that selling to minors is unacceptable. Hampton said he no longer sells Juul products in his business at all.

"I don't believe that Juul is intended to help a user as much as it is to keep a user addicted," he said.

Hampton said one of the major problems with Juul is the lack of step down therapy. It only has two levels.

He credits the current teen epidemic to teens using that product, and getting hooked on the high levels of nicotine in it.

"I vape between 0 and 3 milligrams now. Juul would burn my throat," Hampton said.

Juul now offers 35 milligram pods, but that's still far above the amount found in conventional vaping products.

Hampton believes vaping products should be regulated the same way alcohol is.

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