On August 8 2016, the US Food and Drug administration passed a regulation for vaporizers and other forms of electronic cigarettes that will ban 99.9% of all vapor products, according to the president of the American Vaping Association, Gregory Conley.
The regulation will go into effect the summer of 2018 and it has the potential to eliminate thousands of small businesses built around the vaping industry, which, according to Forbes, was valued at $3.7 billion in 2015.
Kyle Lonks is a manager at Vapor Studio, a small vape shop and lounge hidden in the bustle of Main Street Flushing, Queens. Like many shop owners, he is worried that the FDA regulation will negatively affect his business.
“These regulations will affect all types of business in the industry” said Lonks. “Every week or so there is a new rule that comes out.”
Vapor Studio has been forced to stop providing even some of its most basic services such as the repair or assembly of vaporizers.
Yet, the regulation’s most hurtful policy to the industry according to Lonk is that it requires vape shops to go through an extremely costly and timely approval process for each one of their hundreds of products. Since vape shops usually carry hundreds of different flavors, this process could cost over a million dollars per product.
“We don’t have the capital to make a big change,” said Lonks. “I think—like most other shops—we’re just going day by day.”
One vapor shop in Flushing, Queens is calling for action. Empire Mods was the first vape shop to open in Queens. Ryan Hickey, an employee at the store for over two years admits that some of the regulations are positive.
“Regulating things like the ability for shops to modify devices, adding warning labels, and an age limit are positive,” Hickey said. “But the other rules certainly do over step and will eventually kill the industry.”
Keith Mautner, the owner of Empire Mods, hopes that newly elected President Donald Trump can work with local politicians to exclude vapor products from the FDA’s new stricter regulations on tobacco products. Mautner argues the regulation eliminates a healthier alternative to tobacco, and that the regulation will hurt local businesses.
“Without the aid from the government all employees risk losing their jobs along with the shop’s $500,000 in economic impact.” Mautner said in a Jan. 31 press release, “Without action from Congress, this FDA regulation will actually be pushing people to go back to smoking tobacco products.”
Abbas Malik is a senior in Queens College that shops at various vape stores in Queens and is concerned about the health side effects could potentially produce.
“I think [the regulation] is crazy,” he said. “People have left tobacco cigarettes to be healthier.”
Malik credits vapor products for his ability to cut back on smoking, citing that he feels healthier and likes that vaping does not produce odors or pollution like smoking cigarettes.
“Once I began vaping. I went from two packs a week to just two cigarettes a month,” Malik said, “My friends say I look healthier and I feel it as well.”
According to Lonks, the government is still clarifying some of the statutes instated on the 200-page regulation.