Plano-area vaping stores report loss of business, lack of clarity on future regulation

The vaping industry has reported a loss of business since reports have surfaced of health problems associated with the devices. (Graphic by Chelsea Peters and Kristen Rodriguez/Community Impact Newspaper)
The vaping industry has reported a loss of business since reports have surfaced of health problems associated with the devices. (Graphic by Chelsea Peters and Kristen Rodriguez/Community Impact Newspaper)

The vaping industry has reported a loss of business since reports have surfaced of health problems associated with the devices. (Graphic by Chelsea Peters and Kristen Rodriguez/Community Impact Newspaper)

Local vape shops are feeling the weight from recent reports of vaping-related illness, injury and death.

“We’re really just trying to wait it out,” said David Carr, vice president of operations at Plano’s Vape Dudes.

Roughly 600 businesses across the state sold vapor products in 2018, according to market research conducted by the Texas Vapor Coalition, a vaping advocacy nonprofit. Up to 20% of these shops are no longer open, Executive Director Jay Maguire said.

Carr attributes the loss in sales at his store to misinformation.

“[Vaping has] been has been a thing worldwide for about 10 years, and nobody’s gotten sick anywhere else in the world except for in the United States, randomly, in the summer of 2019,” Carr said. “That speaks to a recently introduced contaminant, not anything inherently wrong with the technology.”

In early November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the majority of lung tissue samples taken from those affected by a vaping-related injury were found to contain evidence of vitamin E acetate, a substance commonly used with black-market THC.

Carr said this supports what vapor shops and advocates have been saying—that the dangers of vaping are related to illegal THC distribution, not nicotine-based vapes.

“We’re hoping that that news will start filtering out to people,” Carr said. “But there’s not a lot that we can do to combat that ourselves.”

There are 13 million former smokers in the U.S. who use vapor products as smoking cessation devices, Maguire said. Restricting access could drive smokers back to cigarettes, he said.

But the research related to vaping-related injuries is still preliminary, health officials say. A broader concern is increased use among teenagers.

In September, the CEO of Walmart announced that the business would discontinue sales of vaping products at stores nationwide. Walgreens and Kroger followed suit a month later.

The American Medical Association adopted a stance Nov. 19 for an immediate ban on all e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The group plans to lobby for this ban to become a law in the future, but the vaping industry is currently focusing on lowering teen usage.In mid-October, JUUL, the largest vaping device manufacturer in the U.S., suspended the sale of flavored pods in an effort to curb use among teenagers.

“We must reset the vapor category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers,” JUUL Labs CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said in a statement.

While banning flavored e-liquids could lead to a decrease in vaping among the younger crowd, some believe it could also cause an uptick in cigarette usage among adults who rely on flavored pods to remain smoke-free. Banning flavored liquids would also have a large impact on vaping stores, Carr said.

“Every shop would basically close overnight if we couldn’t sell flavored products,” Carr said. “That’s what adults want to use.”

The American Vaping Association has stated it believes lawmakers and the FDA should instead focus on tighter regulation of high-nicotine e-liquids.“If [high nicotine e-liquids were] properly regulated, you could discourage improper usage of the products,” said Greg Conley, president of the association. “You’re never going to be able to eliminate youth experimentation.”

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