OLEAN — A common concern for employees and customers at vape shops in Olean is that the businesses will close as a result of the upcoming ban on flavored e-cigs, compelling some to start smoking cigarettes again.
On Monday, an Olean Times Herald reporter visited the N3 Vapor Shop on North Union Street and the Jas Vapor Shop on West State Street for comments on the state-imposed emergency ban on flavored e-cigs, which takes effect Oct. 4. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stated the ban will include all e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco and menthol. Cuomo has stated he believes vaping is dangerous and addicting young people to nicotine at a very early age, and targets young people with flavors that include bubble gum and cotton candy.
At N3 Vapor, employee Drew Evans said the adult customers the store serves, who have to be at least 21 years of age, typically purchase flavored vapes.
“Anybody who comes in here and buys (flavored) third-party juices or our house juices will only have the option to do menthol or tobacco, which most people are trying to get away from because it reminds them too much of smoking,” Evans said. “And sometimes those flavors (menthol and tobacco) aren’t what you want to be vaping. They just don’t taste as good.”
He said he believes that by just selling the menthol and tobacco flavors, the restricted products will “push people back to cigarettes or chewing tobacco.”
Evans noted that vitamin E, which has been added to some vaping products and caused serious issues and deaths for the users, were obtained as black market, homemade THC pods with the purpose of getting the user high.
“Our pod systems are a refillable system that you can put the third-party juices in, or our house juices,” he added, noting the store doesn’t sell name-brand products, such as the JUUL product, which contains a high level of nicotine.
“As a whole (the vaping population) is a much healthier community than the tobacco smoking community,” he surmised.
A customer at the store, who is a resident of Olean, said she is frustrated by the ban. A former smoker, the woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she was able to give up smoking by vaping. Through the years, she also has been able to lower the amount of nicotine in the product with the help of staff at the store.
“I’ve been (vaping) for about eight years now,” she said. “I’m sure it’s not great” but the alternative of smoking cigarettes is worse. In addition, she said that once the product is available locally, she doesn’t want to purchase products online from people she doesn’t know.
A customer from Bradford, Pa., said she and her husband have made the trip to Olean once a week since shops in her town closed after the commonwealth levied heavy taxes on the vaping industry. Her husband said he had smoked for 31 years and tried to quit with several products, but wasn’t successful until he began vaping. He now is at one of the lowest levels of nicotine with a flavored juice.
Evans said the store, which has been open several years in Olean and sells a variety of products, has locations in Wellsville and Hornell, as well as the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
At the JSS Vapor Shop on West State Street, employee Brandon Little said he believes the ban will force some shops to close, and push many customers back to smoking.
Little said the vaping industry has been in existence for approximately 12 years and hasn’t had any known issues until lately when individuals were using black market products. He said despite reports the products are aimed at children, shops such as his only sell legal products to those 21 years of age and older.
Little said his shop has been open about six years and has stores in Cuba and Wellsville, as well.
A customer, Matthew Brucker, said the product has helped him stay off cigarettes, and he uses a minimum amount of nicotine in his e-cigarettes.