The day Jersey City’s flavored e-cigarette ban goes into effect, iVape on Central Avenue will have to close, the store’s owner David Orjuela said.
His vape product sales began declining dramatically when vaping-related deaths were first reported. Banning the sale of flavored vaping products “is like the last nail in the coffin,” he said.
Vape store employees, many of whom spoke against the ban at the public hearing before the 7-2 vote, are banding together to fight it.
“Right now, what we’re trying to do is first talk to the council people, see if we can just talk it out,” Orjuela said. “If they don’t want to do anything, want to just keep going with the ban, then we are going to have to get some lawyers.”
Jersey City passed the ban last Wednesday, an attempt to protect local teens from getting addicted to nicotine with vape flavors ranging from blueberry or bubblegum. The law will take effect in early March and will be enforced by the city’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Orjuela insists he doesn’t sell to minors — his store IDs — but corner stores and gas stations often do. Banning flavored vape products at those types of stores would make more sense, Orjuela said.
Juan Guarin, an employee at V.Y.R.T. Glass and Vapes, said his store’s “backup plan” for when the ban takes effect is to rely on selling smoking merchandise such as hookahs and water pipes.
But much of the store’s products are on significant discount right now and more than half of the products on a wall lining the length of the store are flavored.
“I don’t know what we’ll do because we can’t return it to the companies,” Guarin said.
With the ban, vape shop customers will simply head to neighboring towns or purchase their products online, Orjuela said. The ban just makes Jersey City look like a bad place to open a business, he added.
Both Orjuela and Guarin are former cigarette smokers who switched to vaping and say their health has improved greatly.
According to the Centers for Disease control, 48 Americans have died from vaping-related illnesses. Many of those deaths were found to have been caused by vitamin E acetate, an additive to vaping products with THC.
E-cigarettes, meanwhile, are the most common tobacco product among high schools and middle school students, according to the CDC.
Gov. Phil Murphy and other state leaders are also pushing for New Jersey to ban flavored electronic cigarettes amid the outbreak of illnesses linked to vaping. Murphy announced in September the creation of a task force to examine how the state can respond to the growing concern over vaping.
Orjuela says mass paranoia surrounding vaping-related illnesses has caused sales to decline. Vape products were once 80% of his shop’s total sales, but that number has dropped to about 40% in recent months. The store was hoping that sales would begin inching back up once more information about the deaths emerged, but the Jersey City ban would make all of that moot, he said.
The store simply cannot survive without its flavored vape product sales, he said.
“A lot of shops are either going to close or switch over to smoke shops,” Orjuela said.