Vape shops fear loss in business ahead of flavor product ban

Time is running out for vape shops to clean out their inventory to meet new federal health rules that go into effect in two weeks.

“I’ve been getting rid of so many” flavored cartridges, said TJ Sanders, the owner of Vape Citi. “Our inventory has dropped tremendously based off of the ban.”

Sanders has slashed prices on popular “mango” and “lush on ice” e-cigarette fruit flavored cartridges. The Trump administration banned the flavored products an effort to crack down on an epidemic of teen vaping. Only menthol and tobacco flavored pods can be sold. Fruit flavored e-liquids, used for “open tank” vaping, will still be legal.

Those products are mostly used by adults, Sanders says, because they are harder to buy and use and “not something you can just fit in your pocket.” The size of the bottle makes it tougher to conceal, he showed, than smaller flavored pods, which are popular among teens.

“Definitely losing some money, absolutely,” said Sanders, anticipating the outcome of the ban. “I would say the money that we’re losing is big but I don’t think it’s something that would make us consider closing or leaving the shop. That’s not going to happen.”

Sanders is now 21 and meets the new legal age to buy vaping products. He admits he started in high school as a way to stop using chewing tobacco. He doesn’t think the new law will stop teens from smoking.

“Honestly, I think it’s not a wise decision. I think it’s not smart at all,” he said. “I used dip chewing tobacco. That tasted like dirt and suited me just fine. I don’t think them banning flavors is going to keep kids away. I don’t think it’s going to do anything.”

“If it’s not this, it’s something else?,” asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.

“Absolutely,” said Sanders.

Andy Valentin was a tobacco user for 10 years. He says e-cigarette flavors – “mangos, cherries, watermelon” – helped him kick the habit.

He believes it is a “safer” alternative to traditional cigarettes.

“If you’re an adult,” said Valentin, “you should be able to buy what you want.”

Health officials are investigating more than 2000 hospitalized cases of pulmonary illness in the US related to vaping and e-cigarettes. This week, the Centers for Disease Control focused its warning saying people should stop vaping THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.