The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The legislation places e-cigarettes and other vapor-based devices on the same level as traditional tobacco products regarding their sales. The regulation bans sales from street kiosks, ice cream trucks, and self-service displays and retailers are required to acquire a license to sell the products.
City officials claim that e-cigarettes and vaporizers act as a ‘gateway drug’ for minors to tobacco products and marijuana. Vaporizers can be loaded with marijuana canisters that provide a concealed and stealthy method for minors to inhale marijuana.
New regulations regarding e-cigarettes and vaporizers is not a new trend in California as 59 different counties and cities already require licenses for vendors to be able to sell vapor-based products. A state wide ban has also been implementing regarding the selling of such devices to minors. Within Los Angeles, a parallel regulation is in the works to ban e-cigarettes and vaporizers in all places where smoking is banned; locations such as parks and restaurants would become prohibited for vaporizers as they are for tobacco products.
The vaporizer industry has boomed in recent years. Retail sales are expected to double this year to reach an all-time high of 1.7 billion dollars making the industry a lucrative target for investors. The rate that e-cigarettes and vaping products have been selling has the potential to surpass the tobacco industry within a decade. The industry boom has largely been based on the perception that vaping and vapor-based products are a healthier alternative to the well-known evils of tobacco products.
Vaporizers and e-cigarettes heat liquids or blends, often laced with nicotine, in order to generate vapor which can then be inhaled in the same fashion as smoking. The vaporizer industry claims that this allows for smokers to carry on with simulated smoking but without the harmful side effects of tobacco.
The perceived health benefits of vaporizers relative to tobacco products are still disputed around the world. The World Health Organization asserted as recently as July of 2013 that the safety and claims of e-cigarettes “has not been scientifically demonstrated.” The WHO’s report indicates that the variance between retailers and suppliers varies too greatly regarding the amounts of chemicals present in these devices. There is no way for a consumer to be aware of how much of what chemicals are present in a given e-cigarette, and some have been found to contain lethal amounts of nicotine for children and carcinogenic formaldehyde on par with cigarettes.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not regulated e-cigarettes and vaporizer products. While the FDA is expected to deliver its own regulation soon, it has been suggested that they will be regulated in a similar fashion to nicotine patches and nicotine gum.
Critics of the Los Angeles City Council’s new legislation claim that the ordinance is premature ahead of the FDA’s own regulation. Local vape store owners also argue that while the health benefits are still cloudy, and may in fact not be an improvement over tobacco in some regards, vaporizers and e-cigarettes have single handedly helped some customers kick their smoking habit completely.
As legislation is written and implemented across the country, high-risk entrepreneurs interested in the e-cigarette and vaporizer industry should carefully monitor statewide and nationwide trends. The industry is exploding making it a lucrative market full of potential. With retail sales that are expected to double over the next year, the role of regulation and legislation plays will determine the long-term risk associated with investing in such a business. While city and country council legislation may not be an indicator for pending FDA regulation, that are pivotal in the set-up and day-to-day operation of any new vape store and e-cigarette retailer.
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