New law protects children while likely boosting vape shop sales

By Posted on Apr 16 2021 | By

Legislation will stop online sales of vaping products shipped through the U.S. Postal Service

Some might view it as a win-win situation. In early April, Federal law will prevent the sale of nicotine vaping devices and e-liquids unless the buyer’s age can be verified.

The law will apply only to residential addresses. It is formally referred to as the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act.

The impact is not likely to increase or decrease vaping product sales but rather shift them from one buying channel to another. Early on, it appears to benefit vape shops while curtailing sales to youths.

While legally applicable to only shipping via the U.S. Postal Service, major carriers such as UPS and FedEx will voluntarily comply with the law. DHL already prohibits the shipping of vaping and nicotine products in the U.S.

It is expected to take effect in early April after the comment period set by the Postal Service closes toward the end of March.

The law intends to stop sales to minors who purchase the products online and cannot have their age verified as over 18. The law would mandate online age verification for the sale of all e-cigarettes products, and require in-person confirmation upon physical delivery.

As a result, it will significantly reduce such sales by online retailers and likely drive their former adult customers to brick and mortar vape shops. The kids will be out of luck, which is the intent.

There are almost 10,000 vape shops in the U.S. and an estimated 8 million users.

Most vape shops are small businesses with just a few employees. Moreover, while the industry is viewed negatively by some, many customers are either reducing their dependence on nicotine or attempting to eliminate it altogether. A vape shop can offer a transition path to tobacco independence.

One Warrenton shop has already seen an impact of the change in law even before it’s taken effect. “The new law has saved my business. I now will be able to survive,” said Jeff Giocondo, owner of Wikivapes, located at 579 Frost Ave. in the Warrenton Towne Center.

Giocondo, 52, purchased his business just before Covid-19 hit and saw his early sales crash after the lockdown was implemented.

During the later months of Covid-19, when his shop was able to reopen, sales were still sluggish. “People were sitting at home on their computers and thinking, ‘I need some juice. I’ll just order it online instead of going to the shop,’” said Giocondo. That buying option will soon go away.

He is grateful his landlord reduced his rental costs for a few months in mid-2020 to help him get by.

“Recently, I’ve seen a 100 percent increase in my business. I’m getting up to 20 customers a day,” said Giocondo.” Many of those sales were digitally fulfilled in the past by online retailers. The early surge is due in part to some businesses shutting down in advance of the law’s enforcement.

His customers range in age from 21 years old to seniors. Older buyers comprise as much as half of his customers. “I would also say 50 percent of the people who come in here are trying to stop smoking or trying to cut down,” Giocondo said. “We fit those people with the right device and right product for what they need.”

He underscores the benefit of vaping is that no tar is inhaled into the lungs, the main cause of lung cancer, emphysema, COPD, and heart disease, among many other illnesses.

Jenna Causin is the retail face of the business. “There is a perception that users are blowing out these really big clouds and alarming others, saying, ‘What is that doing to my lungs?’

“It’s just the opposite. It’s a lot safer because there is no second-hand smoke you are exposed to. It’s just water vapor people are seeing. It’s environmentally safe,” said Causin.

She added, “And you can also dial back your use slowly if you are trying to stop altogether. You can go down to zero nicotine and only taste the flavoring.”

Tobacco smoke contains at least 70 cancer-causing chemicals, which can lead to all manner of health issues. Tar is the culprit left behind in the lungs from the incomplete burning of tobacco. The only thing ingested with vaping is nicotine and flavoring.

But where there are winners, there may also be losers. Online retailers will see their customer base evaporating since they will not be able to comply with the age verification mandate on orders, a complex problem not easily overcome.

However, many of them are also wholesalers who will be able to retain that business channel since those sales will not go to residential addresses but rather businesses, mostly shops like Wikivapes.

“This is a case that some might see as government overreach, but it’s benefiting my business while protecting young people,” said Giocondo.

The Tobacco Hut Vape shop at 294 Lee Highway did not respond to a request for comment on the subject.

Published in the March 2021 edition of the Fauquier Times.

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