Proposed state law could harm vaping industry

Proposed state law could harm vaping industry
Carlsbad’s Ben Farrell, left, co-owner of Mixed Vapes in the Village, is urging those who use vaping products to have Gov. Jerry Brown veto several bills, which could hurt the industry. Photo by Steve Puterski

REGION — A massive brawl threatening to alter an industry is ongoing after Gov. Jerry Brown called for a special session in the state legislature earlier this month.

The governor has two bills on his desk that could decimate vaping businesses and manufacturing.

Vapors are fighting a stigma of their industry. To be clear, it is not smoking or related to tobacco. In fact, vaping looks like smoking, but it consists of a liquid vapor brought on by juices dropped on coils inside the vaporizer.

“The politicians don’t understand it,” said Ben Farrell, co-owner of Mixed Vapes in the Carlsbad Village. “Cigarette sales have gone down, while vaping sales have gone up.”

Farrell and his colleagues, meanwhile, are fighting two fronts simultaneously as they are educating the public about the differences and taking on legislators and pharmaceutical companies.

The first will raise the age limit of buying and smoking cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and vaping, to 21, with an exemption for active military members, while the second bill would legally consider vaping as a tobacco product.

Proponents of vaping are outraged and have left more than 1 million messages with Brown’s office since the passage of the two bills, according to Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association co-President of the Southern California chapter Shane Simpson.

The only four ingredients in the juices are propyler glycol, vegetable glycol, food flavoring and nicotine, which come in one of the glycol bases. Cigarettes, meanwhile, have more than 4,000 chemicals and 43 known cancer-causing compounds, according to reports.

“What vaping does, it gives you the exact sensation of smoking, it mimics it really well, without the harmful side effects,” Farrell said.

Locally, Farrell said the passage of the bills would cripple the $1 billion industry along with his 3-year-old brick and mortar shop on Roosevelt Street. Simpson said there are about 2,700 vape shops in the state.

Farrell produces seven of his own flavored juices and carries about 40 total. Those juices, he said, range from zero milliliters of nicotine to 24.

“I have personal helped hundreds of people from cigarettes to vaping,” he explained. “Not your typical people either. We’ve helped them quit. It’s a healthier alternative.”

The under 21 bill will not allow 18 to 20 year olds to work in the industry, whether at shops, manufacturers or distributors. But politicians have been playing a long-time ace, claiming the vaping industry is targeting children to get them hooked.

Farrell and Simpson, though, argue otherwise stating they check IDs and won’t even sell to parents who are trying to buy the devices in order to help get their kids quit the habit.

Ironically, vaping has become one of the most successful avenues to quit smoking, according to the two business owners. Simpson, who owns C3 Vapors in Orange County and a former two-pack a day smoker, said hundreds of friends and associates transition to vaping and within months to one year, quit.

Yet, a big push for Brown to sign the legislation, the two men say, comes from “Big Pharma,” otherwise known as the pharmaceutical companies.

The reason, they claim, is due to vaping’s effectiveness in helping people quit combustible tobacco smoking (i.e. cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco). Big Pharma, though, produces products such as gum, patches and prescription medication to help quit the addiction.

However, Farrell and Simpson said those efforts typically come up short and in the case of the medication such as Chantix, which one side effect is thoughts of suicide.

“There’s already several manufacturers in the industry making synthetic nicotine that isn’t derived from tobacco plants,” Simpson said. “It’s one of those key points they (opponents) love to leave out.

Another aspect of the bills would crush online sales from businesses plus an estimated 30 percent reduction in the industry’s workforce.

Under the proposed law, vaping would be classified as the same as tobacco and thus require obtaining new licenses plus trying to find new marketing services (credit card companies), who will accept their transactions.

Market services would increase their cost significantly, Simpson said.

Farrell and Simpson also railed against state Sen. Mark Leno, (D) San Francisco, saying he is in the pocket of Big Pharma, noting at least eight of his top 10 political donors are pharmaceutical companies. Leno, though, is taking a page out of San Francisco’s playbook as the city recently changed its age limit to 21.

“What you are going to encourage people to do, if they are 18, is drive out of state and load up on cigarettes, then come back and sell them at an increased value,” Simpson said.

Also, Farrell and Smith said the legislation would affect the workforce, which currently hovers around at 250,000 statewide. Simpson said many manufacturers and online retailers are leaving the state to more friendly places such as Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

In total, Simpson said an estimated 35 percent of the workforce would lose their job and $1.5 billion in revenue would be drastically cut. Adding to the issue, the age limit increase is a mandate, which may leave those workers unable to collect unemployment.

Yet another aspect, Farrell said, is the Master Settlement Agreement between the state and the tobacco companies stemming from a massive lawsuit in the 1998.

“California wanted their money now … so they sold bonds to Wall Street and now they are at risk of defaulting on those bonds because sales of regular cigarettes are down so much,” he said.

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