OPINION: Banning flavored vaping products won’t solve problems

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By Fred Zahredinne
For the Hub

Vaping has recently come into the spotlight, sparking a national debate about the impacts vaping products have on kids and adults. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed but should not come at the cost of the health of many adults who rely on vaping products to quit smoking harmful combustible cigarettes.

In contrast to the national stories, I want to share my personal experience. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 18, that’s more than 25 years of my life where I spent each day smoking one pack of cigarettes. This took a toll on my health, not to mention the bad breath and smell that lingers after smoking cigarettes. Like many others, I tried different methods to quit smoking but was never successful until seven years ago when I decided to give vaping products a try. Vaping products actually helped me quit smoking and became one of the best things that has happened in my life.

For me, vaping products have been a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. I instantly saw the positive changes in my health. I feel 10 years younger now, my lungs feel better, and I no longer deal with labored breathing like I did when I smoked cigarettes. Many people I know have the same exact story – switching from cigarettes to vaping changed their lives for the better.

After benefiting from the changes vaping made in my life, I have become more invested in helping smokers switch to vaping products as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. Since 2014, I’ve worked at a vape shop and daily help many customers find the best vaping product for them. We are an age-restricted shop and take the sales of our products to of-age customers only seriously.

As a consumer and an advocate for the product, flavor bans and attempts to ban e-cigarettes entirely are of great concern to me. Recently, the County of Los Angeles began working on a proposed ordinance that would ban the sale of flavored vaping products in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles county. I know firsthand how hard it is to break the habit of smoking. Restrictions access to vaping products and flavors will only hinder those seeking an alternative to tobacco cigarettes and the positive changes in their lives that come with quitting.

At the shop, 80%-85% of our sales are from flavored vaping products alone. Most of our customers come to our shop because we offer a wide selection of flavored vaping products. If a flavor ban went into effect, we would lose this revenue and the shop would certainly have to close down, forcing our customers to seek unregulated products online or from the black market. Many other vape shops would also have to close their doors in the L.A. County area.

Just as it’s not cheap to start a business, it’s expensive to close one. Store owners will be faced with two options – break their leases or continue to pay rent — both of which come with heavy financial consequences. Many vape shop owners would also be faced with the question of what to do with a massive investment in product inventory that has now become illegal, which they can neither return or sell. These business owners will be in possession of an illegal product, they will not make enough revenue to stay afloat, they will lose their businesses, and shop employees would lose their jobs. These are the trickle-down effects that the proposed ordinance would have on vape shops and the major concerns that shop owners and their employees are now contending with.

There is no debate that minors should not be gaining access to vaping products. We are willing to work with the county to increase security measures and put forth a sensible ordinance that protects our youth and also works for businesses and adults who rely on vapor products to lead healthier lives. I strongly urge the County to include the vaping industry and consumers in their discussion moving forward as banning flavored vaping products will not solve the problem.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of the Hub editorial team.

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