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Vape, e-cigarette shops in the city are nearing their license deadline

Any shop not granted a license by the Department of Consumer Affairs must cease sales on Aug. 23.

Vape retailers, who gathered at the tradeshow Vapevent

Vape retailers, who gathered at the tradeshow Vapevent in Brooklyn in March, worry about a new law they say limits the number of vape businesses in the city. Photo Credit: Max Parrott

These shops are trying not to go up in smoke.

The New York State Vapor Association, which advocates for retailers and consumers of e-cigarettes and vaping devices, is trying to help minimize impact on city stores as a new law’s license deadline approaches this week.

The City Council passed legislation last August that requires all vape retailers to apply for a license by Wednesday. Only retailers who were selling e-cigarettes as of Aug. 28, 2017, are eligible. Pharmacies or businesses containing pharmacies are not eligible and will be prohibited from selling any related products beginning Aug. 23.

“We are taking an important first step in protecting the health of New Yorkers, especially our youth,” said Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who sponsored the bill.

NYSVA hosted a booth last month at Vapevent — a vape trade show in Brooklyn — to help educate business owners.

“It’s very discouraging to us because vape shops’ primary purpose is to give smokers an alternative to smoking,” said Cheryl Richter, executive director of the NYSVA.

Richter’s view reflects how many manufacturers and retailers see vapes: a healthier smoking alternative.

Bryce Copp, a vape distributor at the convention, entered into vape retail after the products helped him quit smoking. Before becoming a distributor, he worked as a salesman in a vape shop, where he helped smokers find a device that would help them quit.

“It’s a very real and rewarding thing,” he said.

Spike Babaian, technical analysis director of the NYSVA, fears that the new law will have unintended negative consequences.

“The reality is that a lot of the laws that are being put into effect are going to push people back to smoking,” she said.

Studies on the health risks vaping have produced mixed results. One study published by the medical journal Tobacco Control agrees with the NYSVA’s view that vapes are a healthier cigarette alternative. The study found that replacing cigarettes with vapes could save 86.7 million years of lives over 10 years.

But another study by the University of Montana found that negative effects increase in teen vape use, and would negate the positive effects of helping smokers quit.

While the research continues, so does the regulation — some say at a rate that could cripple the industry before their health effects are known in full. Copp believes that advocacy efforts like that NYSVA are going to be necessary for the industry’s survival.

“It’s just a matter of getting through to Washington and local politicians. We as ambassadors for the industry have to educate people,” he said.

The new restrictions are the latest on vaping. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill that banned vapes from school grounds throughout the state in August, then from all public indoor spaces in October.

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