By Briana Vannozzi
Mike Guarino is pulling out his favorite flavored vaping liquids. The Hoboken Ultimate Smoke and Vapor Shop general manager says selling juices, as they’re called, that taste like doughnuts, bananas or mixed berries account for more than half his business.
“I get customers that come in and buy five, six, seven bottles at a time. Some people walk out with a shopping bag full of liquids. They’re going on vacation, they want to stock up. They’ll buy six, seven bottles, you know, that’s a pretty consistent thing,” he said.
But he’s worried legislation moving through Trenton will put those days to an end. A pair of bills sponsored by Assemblyman and physician Herb Conaway will ban the sale of flavored electronic smoking products in an effort to prevent young people from being targeted.
“We’ve seen this triple increase in youth using electronic smoking devices in just one year. That’s according to the federal government and the student’s say it’s because they are attracted to these flavors,” said NJGASP Executive Director Karen Blumenfeld.
According to federal data, 90 percent of people start smoking before the age of 21, and preventing it before then would save a quarter of a million lives.
“A plethora of studies that already show the hazardous chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic that are in e-cigarette liquids and in fact diacetyl, which is an ingredient that is in almost every e-liquid, causes a terrible pulmonary disease and it’s captioned ‘popcorn lung disease’ and there’s no real treatment for that. So it is scary,” said Blumenfeld.
“This is a free market and the choice to vape is as important as any decision that you’d be able to make. I mean frankly, smoking might be harmful, but if I like vaping, then I should be able to do it regardless of whether or not the state deems it harmful to my health,” said vape customer Conner Gleason.
“If it’s not going to be sold in the state, people are just going to go online and buy it. They’re going to buy big bottles, they’re going to mix their own liquids at their house, they’re going to order their own nicotine. It’s not going to be stopped. Call it a black market if you will, but that’s exactly what it is,” Guarino said.
If the legislation passes, anyone found in violation will face pretty sizable fines — anywhere from $250 for the first offense up to $1,000 for the third and each after that.
The bills will also outlaw using coupons or rebates to purchase the products. The state already bans flavored cigarettes. Only clove, menthol and tobacco flavors will be permitted for both.
“The problem with that is you have people who are smokers who are likely interested in the variety of flavors of vapor products, but taking that away will actually lead people to stick with the devil they know, which is cigarettes,” said Alex Clark of the Consumer Advocacy for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.
The legislation already cleared the Assembly Health Committee. It’ll head to the full state Senate and Assembly for a vote, but not without a fight.