WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As New Hanover County commissioners consider tougher restrictions on smoking and vaping in county, city and town-owed property, some vape shop owners and managers are taking a strong stand while others bow out of the industry.
“Your CBD Store” has three locations in Wilmington.
“We’ve kind of seen it nationwide that people have been concerned with vaping just in general, but now its kind of hit home, you know, its here in Wilmington and Wilmington is on the verge of banning vaping at certain places and I think when it starts to hit home, you know we’re in the community and we decided we needed to take a step forward with it,” said store manager Sydney Adrian. “Obviously we carry plenty of other products and I don’t think we’ll have a problem by pulling those products.”
The store has already pulled vape products from its Wrightsville Avenue shop and plans to remove vape products from its other locations in 2020 and focus fully on CBD products, despite their assertions that those vaping products are safe.
At “Hometown Vape Company,” manager Joe Bey calls the proposed ban is “ridiculous.”
“I don’t know that it would affect business because I don’t think its something that people are going to give up just because there’s an ordinance that says they can’t do it in public. Its gotten a lot of people off cigarettes, it’s health improvements for tons of people," Bey said. " So, I don’t know that it would hurt the industry, I think its going to cause a greater disconnect between the government and the citizens.”
On a larger scale, however, the industry is already being impacted.
AMV Holdings is one of the largest vape retailers in the United States. President Sam Salaymeh says the general move to “demonize” vaping and regulate it at a government level are “misguided knee jerk reactions to misinformation.
"There is paranoia and fear and in many ways what I would call hysteria that is leading regulators to try and do anything to show that the checklist that they’ve done something when in reality, the science is absolute on the fact that there is no secondhand smoke effect with vapor.”
However, the company has already closed seven stores and laid off 50 workers, mostly, Salaymeh said, in North Carolina.
AMV Holdings is one of many independent vape retailers calling for market reform. In October, the group published recommendations for public policy that addresses what it calls two “false claims” about vaping related illnesses and underage use.
“We as an industry today are caught between the drug dealers who created the cartridges that they shouldn’t have created in the first place.... and then we’ve got on the flip side of it this massive push on the issue of teen vaping, which unfortunately, yes teens are vaping, it’s sad, I wish they didn’t, you go into our stores, your ID has to be scanned to make a transaction, so we don’t contribute to that but we’re being penalized for it when in reality, the United States has never been able to stop teens from doing anything,” Salaymeh said.
At the New Hanover County Health and Human Services board meeting Tuesday, Health director Philip Tarte said the approval of the restrictions, once passed by county commissioners, "should provide some really good, safe public health for this community for years to come.”
But Joe Bey questions the enforcement of the restrictions. The new vaping rules propose enforcement using misdemeanor ticketing and fines of up to $200.
In New Hanover County, Bey says there are many first responders who vape because they’re not allowed to smoke in government-owned vehicles.
“I’m having a fun time imagining the scenarios that are going to come up... they’re asking law enforcement officers to place criminal charges on people for something that they have possibly in their squad car at the same time," Bey said. “I just hope that they do a little more research before passing something like this that would cause criminal charges to come on people for something that’s a safer alternative to smoking and I would encourage them to maybe look at different regulatory action such as online sales and things like that as a solution to problems they’re trying to answer."