Ban on flavored e-cigarettes may mean sudden death for local vape shops

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EVANSVILLE, In. (WEHT) — There is no doubt new concerns are causing stress not only for people who vape, but also for businesses, once the ban goes through.

Shop owners say their products are not meant for people who have never smoked.

Today the National Federation of State High School Associations released a statement, claiming vaping has reached a “crisis stage and must be stopped.”

But small business owners say there’s more to the story.

“My numbers in the last week and a half are down about 40 percent.”

That’s the difficult reality facing TKO Vapor owner Brad Bodart and every store like his.

“That will devastate this industry here in Indiana. Most everybody sells a flavored product,” says Indiana Smoke Free Alliance president Amy Netherton. “All of the businesses will have to shut down.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”

But those in the industry say their products are meant to stop people from smoking.

“It will shut down our business,” said Bodart. “It will shut down open systems. Mom and pop shops, like ours. Folks that are focused on the destruction of the tobacco industry. If you ban flavored vapors, you know who will be left in business? JUUL, who doesn’t offer flavors.”

On September 9, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL for marketing what it called “unauthorized, modified risk tobacco products” …claiming the company engaged in marketing activities that at times, targeted kids.

Local owners say by limiting choices, some adults may turn back to cigarettes.

“Getting rid of flavors in general would disrupt the whole industry,” says TKO manager Aurelia Solis. “I firmly believe hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs.”

If the ban goes through, the only way to get products back on the shelf is through FDA approval.

“Why is this what we call an acute problem with lung illnesses? I think you can solely attribute that to adulteration of the product that is not being done in businesses we represent,” said Netherton.

“Why are they coming for us now?” asks Bodart. “Because, they can.”

So far health officials say there is no clear connection between the 6 deaths.

In the case of the New York death, Vitamin E acetate is now a key focus of the state’s investigation.

Those in the vape industry believe the vapors may have been illicit products, and not what they sell in stores.

According to Deaconess Hospital, they have not yet seen an uptick in vaping illness in the area.

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