The state’s emergency ban on the sale of flavored vapor products has been a tough blow for small businesses that depend on the relatively new trade of selling e-cigarettes.
“It’s been devastating,” said Tiffany King, co-owner of New Way Vapors in Port Orchard. “We had to lay off three employees and make the final employee part-time.”
On Oct. 10, the Washington State Board of Health passed an emergency ban on the sale of flavored vapor products or any products used to create flavored vapor products. Gov. Jay Inslee sought the ban through an executive order.
The action came on the heels of 26 deaths nationwide reportedly associated with lung injuries due to vaping. As of Sept. 27, the state Department of Health has reported seven cases of severe lung illness related to vaping products.
“Vaping started in the U.S. in 2007,“ King said. “If the incidents everyone is now talking about were caused by flavored vapor projects, they would have started happening long before now.”
The Port Orchard business owner insists no direct link exists between the health problems and the flavoring liquids used in e-cigarettes.
“Instead of attacking the whole industry, they should focus on finding the cause and deal with that.”
King said she had to remove 400 e-liquid-flavored products from the store. Most of the shelves in her business are now barren.
“We have close to a half-million dollars of product that we cannot sell or return to suppliers.”
Following the ban, stores like New Way Vapors are limited to selling tobacco and unflavored e-liquid products.
“Ninety-nine percent of customers don’t want tobacco. If they did, they would still be smoking cigarettes.”
She fears that by not having flavored liquids for sale, many of her customers will return to smoking traditional cigarettes.
Customers are still coming to the store to buy flavored liquids, only to learn of the new restrictions.
“When they learn, some say they will go buy online to buy it or ask me how to make the liquids,” King said. “Neither of those actions are safe and can lead to more people getting sick.”
When asked if she is optimistic the ban would be lifted, King said she hopes the cause of the problem is found but is concerned about the “fear-mongering and mass hysteria” surrounding the industry.
“I’m frustrated,” she sighed.
Many vapor stores faced with a dearth of sales have had to close as a result of the ban, King noted.
“I’m going to hold out as long as possible before I would close my doors.”
The emergency ban lasts until Feb. 7, 2020, when it could be extended.
— Story by Mike De Felice, Port Orchard Independent correspondent