Vape shops in NJ worried new federal rules will send businesses up in smoke
There's now a tighter grip on which products can be sold and how workers interact with customers at vape shops throughout the country.
In New Jersey, vape shop owners are worried about how new rules from the federal government, which kicked in Monday, will affect their bottom lines.
The rules place e-cigarettes and other vape products under the tobacco umbrella, meaning all products that came on the market since early 2007 must earn approval from the Food and Drug Administration in order to stay on the shelves.
"It's definitely going to thin out the selection," said Howard Goldstein, owner of NJ VapeZone in Toms River.
It's been estimated that it could cost manufacturers more than a million dollars per product for testing — a cost Goldstein says cannot be easily covered by all brands.
"It's a big problem and they're going to be putting a lot of small businesses out of business," he said.
Manufacturers can continue to sell their products for up to two years during the application process, plus another year during review.
Cody Sparks, an employee at Middlesex Vapes, said "it's a little scary" to envision how many products may be removed from their inventory due to testing.
"I understand that there has to be regulations, but I feel to the extent that they're doing it, it's not entirely fair," Sparks said.
On top of federal approval, the rules ban the sale of products to anyone younger than 18, but New Jersey has its own law with an age minimum of 19. Also, samples cannot be given to customers for free, and shops can not claim that their products are a safer alternative to smoking.
"It's a load of crap what they're trying to do to us," said Jake Salvatore, manager of Gorilla Vapes of Howell. "And my biggest fear is customers are going to be pushed away from it because they're making it seem like vapes are scary and they're going to kill you."
The safety of e-cigarettes, which can contain nicotine, has been in question for nearly a decade. Not much is known about their long-term health effects. A report released in April by the British Royal College of Physicians argued e-cigarettes are not a gateway to cigarette smoking and may lead cigarette smokers to quit.
Citing e-cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product by youth, American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer said the FDA "must crack down on unproven health claims."
"E-cigarettes are a tobacco product, and almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine — a highly addictive substance that has been shown to have a negative impact on brain development during adolescence and young adulthood, including lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments," Wimmer said in a statement.
The association also pushed to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market, but that was not included in the latest regulations.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at Dino.Flammia@townsquaremedia.com