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'I am out of business': Local vape shop owner says new government plans would mean end for him

Charles Molineaux
Updated: September 11, 2019 09:52 PM
Created: September 11, 2019 08:26 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area vape sellers predicted disaster for their business after news of a proposed nationwide ban on most e-cigarettes.

 “You see on that wall right there?” said Andrew Ribble, owner of the Liquid Cloud Lounge on Monroe Avenue. He was talking about the array of products he offers.

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“There’s 300-plus flavors. I have one tobacco and one menthol. So, as a business owner, I am out of business.”

On Wednesday, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar revealed plans to end a special waiver of FDA regulations enjoyed by many vape products.  

Technically, vaping products were never approved by the federal government. Instead, they were given a special exception on the theory that they reduced smoking. 

The Trump administration plans to end that exception for all but tobacco flavored e-cigarettes because of growing concern that the fancy fruity flavors have been enticing underage young people.

“The data just shows that kids are getting access to these products,” said Azar. “[This is] in spite of our best efforts in enforcement, and retail enforcement, and controlling locations, and over 8000 warning letters to retailers and others, in spite of moving products off shelves.”

“We don’t cater to children,” said Ribble.  “I am almost 50 years old and I vape. I think what I have is “blueberry cereal” in here right now, because I had to move as far away from the tobacco flavor as possible to not want cigarettes any longer.”
         
The issue became urgent in recent weeks with reports of hundreds of cases of lung disease across the country, including several deaths, now believed to be connected to vaping.  

Health officials in New York State report 34 such cases.

E-cigarette sellers say that’s a completely separate issue involving black market vape cartridges, already illegal. Those are loaded with the marijuana-based chemical THC, as well as dangerous filler chemicals.  Some inquiries have already identified a Vitamin E oil used in some of the carts as a possible culprit, accumulating in users’ lungs and causing life threatening congestion. 

“What people are dying from or getting sick from are carts that are made in somebody’s bathtub,” said Ribble.  “These are being made underground.  It’s no different than, say, bathtub gin during prohibition. People died from that because it was being made illegally. And that’s what this situation is.”

Health officials from Monroe County, New York State and the CDC say, though, that the threat is too serious for delay. They are all now urging everyone to put down the e-cigarettes until their real health effects are better researched and understood.  

“Given that we are now seeing an emerging threat and, in the absence of any obvious benefit, our role as health professionals is to take the cautious route which is to say that we are advising against all vaping in all Monroe County residents,” said Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Michael Mendoza.

Azar predicted the proposed federal regulations for E-Cigarettes would have to go through several months of formulation and public comment before they would take effect.  He also cautioned that tobacco-flavored vape products, while they can still be sold, would also have to apply for and receive FDA approval by next spring to stay on the market.   

Other flavored products could apply for that approval too, he said, but would not be able to be sold until they receive it.   

The New York State Vapor Association released the following statement: 

"We're very disappointed that President Trump and NY Governor Cuomo have fallen for and perpetuated 'fake news.' Evidence shows black market THC tainted with thick oil is causing the lung crisis in the US. Nicotine e-liquid has been on the market for 12 years with no issues except health improvement for smokers. With a stroke of a pen, pushed by Bloomberg millions, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco interests, millions of smokers will go back to smoking, try to do it themselves, or buy illegally which is exactly why this problem happened. All bad news for public health."


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