Anatomy of a Successful Vape Shop
By Norm Bour
By Norm Bour
There always is something new in this very exciting vape market. Whether you are a novice, just thinking about getting into the vape space, or maybe you are an old pro with a whopping couple of years under your belt, there always are new ways to (re)invent and market yourself. We get input and feedback from all over the United States and from overseas and wanted to share some observations and insight you can use.
Many things come in sets of “threes:”
1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner
2. The three primary colors of the spectrum
3. The Three Stooges!
But seriously, since I have been in too many vape shops to count I have identified what it takes to create a successful business. And, it is not always about money. Or location.
In our home turf of Orange County, Calif., we take out of town clients in for training to different shops in the area. After visiting many we have narrowed our tour down to three, and we are giving our opinion on two that are doing it really well and one that is missing the mark.
One of the current challenges in the marketplace is locations, since many cities have too many vape shops and others don’t want them. This has become a huge problem and in many cases a great location doesn’t always make you a great shop, even though you may be profitable.
Profile #1: Vintage Vapours, Lake Forest, Calif. (Rob Zahr) age 43
They did not start Vintage for the money, but Zahr smoked up to two packs a day for decades, and in 2009 he was introduced to his first e-cig, and he has not looked back.
All three owners have a deep entrepreneurial history, which is a significant advantage in this new and risky vape space. They use all hand-made components, and upon entering this location you can see that they spent a shit load in design and décor. Zahr said that they were not creating a decor, but were creating environment, and he is spot on. The interior design is part of you and who you are and the type of experience you want to create. It is not always necessary to go into six-figure budgets but to have adequate money and spending it wisely, pays dividends.
What did Vintage really do right? No. 1: it hired the right people; No. 2: it established policies on customer service; No. 3: the store and the décor.
What should they have done differently? “Happy as is!” was Zahr’s reply.
Advice to those opening shop:
1. Don’t take on more than you can handle; do what
you can, don’t borrow money!
2. Stay realistic in your goals.
3. Grow through great service and go from there.
4. Stay true to brands, avoid clones (they carry none).
5. Join the vape community; advocate and support each
at all sectors.
This vape shop is a true showplace, one I take all our clients to visit. It is located in a high traffic shopping center on one of the busiest roads in Orange County.
Profile #2: E-Cig Emporium, Irvine, Calif. (Paul Gaudreau), age 50
What did he really do right? Gaudreau said that he created an image and brand that made anyone feel comfortable. His location is unique since he is amongst several large office buildings and caters to white collar clientele. Gaudreau was committed to a location in another city, signed a lease, and found out before he took over that the city would NOT permit it. He dodged a bullet by a close call.
What should Gaudreau have done differently? The timing to open during the holidays was not planned and wished he had not done so.
Advice to those opening shop:
1. Be sure the city you wish to operate in allows it.
2. Use money wisely. Gaudreau did a lot of work himself,
did flooring, $17K build out, $40K inventory.
3. Probably spent 20 percent TOO MUCH on inventory.
4. His guide: $12K juice, $8K in hardware.
5. Don’t need to spend a lot of money on inventory and
here’s his nicotine suggestions: (2) zero nic, (6) 3 nic,
(6) of 6 nic, (6) of 12, (2) of 18, NO 24. These numbers
reflect a pattern we notice as well.
He also completed a 35-page business plan that was submitted to the landlord. That allowed his lease approval, but I do not advocate you share your business plan with anyone, and in many cases it may be highly speculative.
This little shop is about 1200 sq. ft. and has a comfortable feel about it, but the branding and messaging is a jumbled mess. They have a decent line of products, not as much hardware as they should, but there is no cohesiveness or efforts made to make the customer feel comfortable. It is eclectic, and not in a good way, with random posters, signs, décor, furnishings, display cases, etc. It’s light and bright and in a great location near the beach, but after taking many clients in, all left with the same thoughts: Something just wasn’t right.
They cater to the young surfer and beach crowd, but with just a few little tweaks they could make this a kick-ass location that could improve their revenue significantly.
By Cynthia Cabrera, SFATA Executive Director
In the face of tremendous uncertainty about the future of the vapor
products industry, many point to the fact that industries can “self-regulate.”
Theoretically that’s true, but the real question is whether the vapor industry
has the potential to regulate its behavior before federal regulations are instituted.
In my daily interaction with members of The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) and with people interested in the vapor space, invariably the question of when the industry will “become more responsible” comes up because the future of the industry rests with the FDA but also with itself. To paraphrase an old proverb, “the answer to the vapor industry’s problem is itself.”
We are facing increasingly incorrect and damaging news coverage—fear mongering about the products has become an easy way for the opposition to get attention—and we have a non-smoking and non-vaping public who still needs to be educated about vapor products and their potential.
Though unfortunate, it is undeniable that the “good guys” are judged alongside the worst players in the vapor space (and make no mistake, every industry has irresponsible participants). From profitable and well known companies to small mom and pop shops, there are plenty of people operating with a short term vision that involves lots of money (great) without regard for business ethics or responsibility (not great).
Frequently, I am asked what can be done to shine a light on responsible and proactive businesses and the answer is quite a bit.
While free T-shirts and e-liquid are fun, consumers, who can be extremely active and dedicated, can be the first line of defense in forcing quality products and practices by holding their vendors to a higher standard.
Consumers can ask their vendors and retailers how they approach and maintain quality control, industry advocacy and ethical business practices. Do their vendors test and properly label products? Does their vendor go the extra mile (or two) by engaging elected officials at the local, state and federal level to fight for the future of the vapor industry? Do their retailers participate in age verification programs like Age to Vape™? The answers to these questions will tell consumers which vendors are proactively responsible.
In a free market, consumers decide which businesses survive and which do not. They will either buy from them because they believe in them or they won’t. Consumers truly interested in a quality product will not shop based on price alone; some of the most popular e-liquid on the market is definitely not the least expensive; proving that consumers will pay to get what they consider to be a superior product.
Vendors and manufacturers can hold their fellow business owners to a higher standard by leveraging their relationships. Several e-liquid and hardware providers insist their distributors and customers toe the line by joining SFATA and participating in our Age To Vape™ in-store age verification program.
Similarly, retailers can refuse to purchase from manufacturers unable or unwilling to provide detailed testing information. Business owners can refuse to participate in “vapor events” that are not up to the professional standard common in other industries. Plenty of money is made on the vapor and trade show circuit, but little attention is paid to how these events are viewed externally.
When I hear statements like “the vapor industry is filled with cowboys” it makes me wonder how much thought is given to that statement—both by critics of the vapor industry and by those in the space who consider themselves mavericks. Cowboys were fearless guys that made things happen. They settled in inhospitable areas that went on to become some of America’s greatest cities, they held themselves and others to a code of ethics in an era where law enforcement was scarce, and they worked long and arduous hours while always trying to do better.
Confusing the spirit that motivated cowboys with the immature antics of some of the businesses currently in the space is insulting to cowboys. We judge ourselves on our intentions but the world judges us on our actions, and the same holds true of the vapor industry.
Many businesses have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into meeting regulatory and compliance requirements not yet demanded of them. They have instituted training programs worthy of Fortune 500 companies and keep looking for ways to improve. Consumers can support a product they believe in by purchasing from those companies that have made the investment of time and finances to ensure they are providing the best quality product possible.
Let us reward the consumers and business owners who are willing to do more by buying from them and supporting them in the fight to keep their products accessible and available.
For more information on e-cigs, visit www.sfata.org.
By Steven Konowe / Vapers Helping Vapers
Very recently a quiet storm has been brewing in the vaping industry, one that has taken this quiet little thing we call an e-cig into a new realm of unconventional marketing. It seems that the direct Chinese manufacturers have come into the U.S. marketplace to put their stamp on their products in order to dilute the U.S. vendors that we have so loved and trusted for so long. In all fairness the fact that these Chinese manufactures are coming in here and selling direct has some positive quotations to this as well as the negative. I do know, however, that some U.S. vendors have altered their pricing to compete with this issue at hand. For this article I think we should look at all aspects pros and cons of this.
Pros of Chinese Manufacturers: Products at Low Prices.
Although you might pay a little more here, there are the benefits of dealing with a U.S. vendor. There is faster shipping and usually a better warranty on products. It is easy to have direct communication with a U.S. vendor. If you do your research you can find some U.S. vendors that are in direct competition with Chinese manufacturers. Amy McCann Baddi with www.usavapeshop.com is one of them. It is good to see that many U.S. vendors have lowered their pricing to accommodate the public. The other big pro to using a U.S. vendor is that they give back to the community at vape meets and with discounted products or helping with needs programs. When was the last time you saw a Chinese manufacturer go above and beyond like the U.S. vendors do? Also, I would rather put my money into this economy than another country..
Cons of Chinese Direct Manufacturers: Can Take a Long Time to Get Your Goods.
You also have to watch out for customs issues. It’s very important to make sure what you’re buying is what you’re getting. If your shipment does not come all together or a piece is missing, you will have to go through the drill of returning it.
Cons of U.S. Vendors: Can Be More Pricier than Chinese Direct Manufacturers. The Selection Might Be As Large.
While we are on this subject I would like to add a second part to this article called Clones or Knock Offs. I have as of late seen many different knock offs of brands com into the market and are selling like hot cakes because of the fact that you can get something that looks like the real thing for a lot less. This is an extremely controversial subject, so I am going to be as unbiased as possible. Vaping is a journey and what one person can afford the other might not be able to. Our goal as an industry is to keep people off of analogs in any way, shape or form. I have nothing against clones or knock offs. I personally think clones and knock offs are a good idea for those who want the real thing but can not afford it. In a way many industries are based on this principle. I have a St. John’s Bay JC Penny polo shirt that I paid $12.99 for, and I have a Ralph Lauren polo that I paid $59.99 for. The funny thing is I love them both the same. I just use them at different times depending on the occasion. The only caution here is that a knock off or clone should be labeled as such; it should not be sold as the real thing. I also think that a clone should be stated somewhere on the site and not made to seem like the real deal. The logo also should be different. We live in a society where this goes on all the time and this discussion I am sure will be continued as we evolve.
If you love the beach as much as I do, you’ll share my horror at seeing a beautiful beach blighted by filthy, dirty cigarette butts.
I’m on vacation in Negril, Jamaica, home to the famous Seven Mile Beach. It easily makes every top 10 list of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, if not the entire world.
But it makes me hopping mad—thoroughly disgusted—to see this gorgeous beach littered with ugly cigarette butts.
Cigarettes are the most littered things in the world. Trillions of cigarette butts are thrown onto our streets, parks and beaches every year. The International Coastal Cleanup estimates that cigarette butts account for 25 percent of the total number of garbage items collected, over twice as much as any other category.
I guess smokers think that their butts will eventually decompose. But the fact is that it takes decades for these ugly butts to degrade because cigarette filters aren’t made of innocuous cotton. They’re made of cellulose acetate and about 12,000 non-biodegradable plastic-based fibers.
Cigarette butts don’t just ruin our beautiful beaches and communities; they damage the environment and can be very dangerous, causing fatal fires every year. Cigarettes contain about 4,800 chemicals and just the butts are highly toxic. Tests performed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that water in which cigarette butts have been soaking for a few days kills fish and minnows.
I may look like a fool picking up cigarette butts on the beach. I don’t care, because I want to do whatever little bit I can to ameliorate this problem. I’m a woman, and looks do matter. When I go to the beach, these are not the kind of butts I want to see.
If I could, I’d turn every tourist and every Jamaican onto the e-cigarette, since I think it’s really unlikely that anyone would dispose of an e-cig cartomizer on the beach. A huge advantage of the e-cigarette is that we can tuck it into our beach bag along with our towel and sunscreen and take it out whenever we want to take a nice cool drag.
We’ve come a long way, baby, but we still have a long way to go before we eradicate all the ugly butts on the beach.
Maria Verven is owner of Vaping Vamps.
By Paul Voigt
Smokin’ Vapor has finally set up a foundation—the first of its kind! It’s aimed at helping people who are in serious need of an alternative to cigarettes or cigars. It’s easier to find that $5 for a pack of cigarettes, but not as easy to find the money for that first electronic cigarette kit. One kit can cost between $40 and $100. Battery sizes and name brands dictate the cost. But, when smoking is threatening someone’s life NOW, and he or she has already tried most, if not all, of the products available on the market today and have found no success with them, then perhaps it’s time to try a different alternative.
It can be very surprising to see just how easy it really is to switch from one model of cigarette to another model of cigarette. However, those who have tried one of those “gas station” e-cigs may have found them to be harsh, even causing a cough so bad it induces vomiting (short of choking). When the reaction is that bad, then there is no amount of time that will get them “used to” them. This is the time for a more personal approach from those who know what they are doing.
We’ve been in business more than four years now, longer than any other shop in the entire panhandle of Florida. We are only the second shop to have opened in the entire state of Florida. We are constantly learning, reading and helping to pay for studies done on our products. (As we all know, there have been many tests/studies done on these to date.) Gas station or convenient store disposable or even rechargeable electronic cigarettes have cartridges that are pre filled. That means they are filled where they are made—in China! They do not tell us what is in their liquid or the grade of the product they are using. Remembering how “lead paint” got into some of my kids’ toys, I realized that we needed liquid that was manufactured in the U.S.A., to our country’s standards. That is one of the biggest reasons why we become members of the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA). We seriously are engaged in our industry, for the customers more than ourselves.
Our foundation is set up to help those who are already diagnosed with a smoking related illness. Therefore, we have engaged the help of our local supporting physicians. They receive an application form and fill it out with information about the patient who they would like to see receive an electronic cigarette kit. This is preferably someone who has already tried all the quit smoking products on the market today and have found they are not as effective for their situation. The application is signed by the doctor and witnessed, then sent along to the foundation. The foundation receives the applications and the board reviews all of them. We would like to fill every application that comes in! But, right now we only have enough funding to support approximately two applications, from each physician, per week, for an entire year. We are in great need of funding at this time.
Once the applicant is contacted by the foundation, he or she gives us a time when they can come in to one of the closest Smokin’ Vapor stores to be fitted with a kit and liquid. The recipient is given enough supplies to last approximately one month. It will then be his or her responsibility to purchase those supplies after the first month. Since the cost of vaping is significantly cheaper than the cost of cigarettes, this will be much easier on their wallets!
We can give support and encouragement and advice to help that customer all along the way. We ask the physicians to keep track of this patient’s progress or failure for up to one year. Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D., a cardiologist from Athens, Greece, has been active in the testing of these products for the scientific world. And, those notes would help the industry, and his studies, incredibly—how well the patients are doing, if this is working for them, and if it’s keeping them from cigarettes! We hope that physicians’ stats will come in useful in the near future!
At this time not all electronic cigarette stores, or e-liquid shops, are members of the AEMSA. And not all electronic cigarette shops are willing to help the foundation out right now. So, that is why we send them to one of the Smokin’ Vapor stores in Florida. Someday we would like the foundation to become a national program. But, we’ll start small and work hard to become large! It is our hope that we will receive more funding from electronic cigarette companies and generous philanthropists, along with other AEMSA members so that we can become national. It was one of the very first things I wanted to do when I opened the business. And, it now is finally a reality!
For donations please contact us at:
HIS GIFT TO US FOUNDATION
C/O Smokin’ Vapor
8730 Thomas Dr. Suite 1103-A
Panama City Beach, FL. 32408
By Jenee Fowler
How many times have you heard your favorite forum slammed for being full of jerks? In fact, how many times have you heard your least-favorite forum accused of the same thing? For me, that answer often is all around the board. Should it be? Are vapers as a community un-friendly?
First, let’s take a moment to paint a scene in our minds. We stop by our local (or perhaps we have to drive several hours) brick and mortar. As we walk in, there’s a young woman talking with the sales associate. They’re discussing a new item in the vaping world. The sales person loves it. The young woman hates it.
Maybe you get a little offended. Maybe this product is something you helped create or you knew the owners personally. Maybe you think this young woman is dead wrong. What’s the logical next step here?
Clearly, you call three of your best friends and get them down there to defend you immediately. This lady is wrong and needs to be put in her place. Once your friends arrive you’re going to do just that. You are going to explain, in minute detail why she’s an idiot. After that, you’re going to share everything you know about vaping so people can see how smart you are.
Finally your friends show up. You tell them all about your plan, and they are 100 percent on your side. The four of you burst into the conversation and start explaining why this product is the best on the market. You don’t let her get a word in edgewise, and if she does you insult her weight. You side with the sales associate and verbally beat her down until she’s leaving the store in tears. Way to go! Victory is yours! That’ll teach her to keep her stupid mouth shut!
You would never do that. No sane person would act that way, and in some states a person could probably be cited for harassment if they did. So why is it OK on the Internet? IMO: it’s not.
Maybe for a moment we could all take a step back. We could, as a group, focus our energy on more important things. We are growing in numbers.
Every day there are new and exciting ways to help out and spread information. We don’t have time to fight among ourselves if we are going to win the fight that is ahead of all vapers.
As a very well-spoken vaper said on his show, “There is no place on earth safe from these bans and taxes.” There is much work to be done, and newbs every day that need your help. So what if they’re using an ego battery. So what if your mod vapes at more than 9,000 watts. If you are so bored you want to start a fight, why not use that energy to advocate?
It is my hope that the next time you have something cruel to say, you see the person on the other side of the Internet. Does that mean we have to play nice all the time? No, just know where to draw the line.
Everyone needs a break once in a while. If you’d like to go see some examples of harassment turned to humor check out my new website www.VapeGirl.net. There is a tab devoted to the special brand of bashing the Internet has sent my way since I started making videos in 2011. It’s called Awkward Admirers.
By Susan Oser
I make no bones about the fact that I’m a 0 nic vaper. I have done this not because I was once a smoker and then lowered my nic level to nothing. In fact, I only tried smoking one time in my life for a month just because I wanted to try it, and it didn’t work out so well for me.
Having said that, I vape at 0 nic because of several reasons that you may or may not find surprising:
I vape at 0 nic to support the community, especially my boyfriend who took on vaping and has been more than 100 days analog free.
He heard about the vaping community from my interactions with the online vaping community via vaughnlive.tv (now vapers.tv). He was curious about the people that I was interacting with, and also he had been trying to quit smoking on and off since I met him. Once I introduced him to the community, he was hooked up with a kit (after he won juice in a contest), and the rest as you say is history. It was not too long after that that I started vaping myself and pretty soon became a vapenet host so that I could help others, show my support and make sure that people are in the know about vaping and vaping activism.
I vape at 0 nic because I have found that even at this level, my breathing has gotten better (particularly during the cold winter months).
You know how asthma sufferers use an inhaler to help them breathe better? Well, that’s pretty much how I’ve used my vaping device. There have been times when my breathing has been uncomfortable for me, and once I take a hit off of my vaping device, I end up feeling much better than before and can breathe a bit better after a while.
I vape at 0 nic because I have found it has helped me get over my sicknesses faster and stave them off.
This is something I’ve heard other vapers talk about recently, especially with the colds, flus and sinus infections going around. I have even experienced this myself, and I’ve noticed that since I’ve started vaping, my colds or sinus issues will last at least a week tops (especially when vaping the right flavors). Flavors that are recommended to vape when you have a cold or sinus issue include menthol, mint, cinnamon and/or citrus (especially lemonade in my case).
I vape at 0 nic because I can learn all there is to vaping that I can share with others who are looking to quit analogs.
That has become one of my key reasons to learn how to vape these days. I know a couple of smokers who are looking to quit and be ex-smokers (apart from my boyfriend) and when I heard this I just suddenly get giddy. I think it is because of the knowledge that I’ve gained as a vaper on a basic level that I want to share with others just starting out at the same level. I also want to make sure that the good vendors I’ve come to know and interact with on an online level get their name out there to others that probably never heard of them. I guess you can say I want to do what I can to help out others, and why not do it on a vaping level?
I vape at 0 nic because I believe everyone should have the right to vape and use e-cigs (aka political reasons).
Ok, now I know what you’re thinking: Are you crazy? Well yes, yes I am. I guess I’ve taking to vaping with a bit of a punk rock attitude because if you think of it, punk rockers are kind of anti-establishment anyway. In addition, I feel that if those using various levels of nic are affected with recently proposed legislation that could take their rights away, then perhaps mine could be done (especially if it depends on the wording on how e-cigs are defined). I also feel that standing up for others’ rights and being a voice for the voiceless is what activism at its basic level is all about anyway.
I vape at 0 nic because I can become creative in a different element: such as knitting vaping accessories.
For those of us that like to make things, the vaping community has been a great realm of inspiration to tap into. Besides myself, I know of several other people who have come into crafting vaping accessories and selling them online whether it’s via Facebook or Etsy. I’ve even considered (and am in the process of) taking the plunge in this by knitting up vaping accessories including: lanyards, vaping bags, tank accessories and more. I think the next thing I’d love to either try to come up with or see someone try to do would be make paintings and other artwork related to vaping, vaping photography, and/or vaping related poetry and fiction stories. You never know how, when, and where inspiration will strike.
I vape at 0 nic because it gives me a chance to socialize (as well as network) with a different community of people.
I think since I’ve merely connected online to the vaping community, I’ve met a great group of friends and connected with some interesting people who are in the known as well as well-known users. While I haven’t gone to a big convention or vape meet yet (due to current money issues and limited transportation), it doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. Just the idea of meeting people, connecting with others and then passing on names of those vendors, people to talk to, etc. to new vapors and others is kind of a cool thing. This really is a great community that truly is worth knowing and whose stories need to be out there in the public.
Now, while being a 0 nic vaper has its perks, I have discovered a few interesting drawbacks when it comes to being one.
There are some vendors who don’t create 0 nic juices (especially if it is a flavor that everyone likes and that I can’t have). For those 0 nic vapers reading this, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. How many times have you heard of this epic new juice or this epic company in which everyone is trying their juices and yet they don’t have it in 0 nic because either they are just starting out, it’s the only type(s) of nic they make, etc. One would think that if they expanded their line to 0 nic that they would bring in a bit more cash to their coffers.
While it hasn’t exactly happened with me, I’ve wondered if there are some 0 nic vapers out there who have felt like they don’t fit in with the cool kids because they don’t vape any nic at all or whether or not they are looked down upon. If that’s the case, why would something like that happen anyway? Whether you are a 0 nic vaper or a 24 nic vaper you still are technically a part of the community.
When someone who doesn’t know about the community hears that one is a new vaper, especially at 0 nic level, the criticisms can fly. First, there’s the stigma of being lumped in the regular nic vapers and how it’s bad for one’s health. Then there’s being lumped in with the marijuana vapers and that the 0 nic is going to lead to some bad things. In my case, that’s not true at all. I mean, there are so many good flavors out there why would I want to? In addition, I’m just merely vaping mostly flavoring and PG/VG without the nic. That’s all it is.
Before I got into the vaping community like I have, I came across some message boards that were vehemently criticizing 0 nic vapers (especially if one wanted to start out that way). In fact, quite frankly it scared me a little bit because I knew I was going to start out as a 0 nic vaper and just seeing those harsh criticisms were making me wonder if I wanted to become friends with ANYONE in the community at all. However, after talking with some vaping show hosts and getting their opinions, I realized that in general that everyone was pretty cool with it and honestly, that’s how it should be. If someone wants to become part of the community as a 0 nic vaper, he or she should be welcomed with open arms. Perhaps maybe he or she can help educate the public on vaping and help change the lives of those smokers he or she knows who are trying to quit the bad analog habit or realize that vaping is a right and will want to fight for the rights of other vapers as well as themselves.
By Jim Oliver
The road to hell truly is paved with good intentions. What else explains the massive push by states to essentially outlaw vaping as an alternative to tobacco? Just about everyone understands stigmatizing smoking because it kills people, orphans children and costs billions in increased medical costs and lost productivity. Vaping on the other hand seems to be the best advancement in Tobacco Harm Reduction in the history of smoking. Despite all the success stories, legislators are forcing a return to tobacco, and they’ll be successful unless we fight them.
A little more than a year ago my law partner, Natalie Durflinger, a former smoker herself, found out that her 22-year-old daughter had taken up the habit. Since Natalie grew up in a family of smokers and witnessed first-hand how bad smoking was, and how difficult it was to quit, she immediately began looking for ways to help her daughter kick the habit. She told me that she was concerned about her daughter’s smoking and the use of pharmaceuticals to quit. Luckily, the answer had been in my wallet for the last two years.
My friend Dick Muri, who’s now a Washington State representative, had given me a business card for Kim Thompson’s Vaporium, an “Electronic Cigarette” store here in town. I gave the card to Natalie and she took her daughter shopping for a personal vaporizer. The short story is that Natalie’s daughter quickly transitioned away from tobacco and has been cigarette free for over a year. Even more impressive is that Natalie’s father, a smoker since high school, now is down from two packs a day to exclusively vaping. Like every vaper, he feels better, breathes better, and has more money in his pocket.
Natalie became a true believer and partnered up with her now vaping daughter and a good friend who also works at our law firm to open Steampunk Vapory Lounge. The ladies wanted a place where people could try juices, purchase vaping supplies and hang out in a comfortable Victorian Steampunk setting. The Lounge, like literally every vape shop in the area, has a growing list of proud customers who have moved away from combustible tobacco and feel better for doing it.
Our elected officials should be ecstatic about the decreasing smoking rates and healthier people. They’re not. One of our county commissioners compared vaping to smoking and said “if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck. At the time of this writing, said politician refuses to look at the studies, or have a logical discussion about vaping, because she thinks she’s saving lives by fighting vaping.
A lot of politicians in every state feel the same way. They loathe vaping because vaping looks like smoking and everybody should hate smoking. The irony is that vapers by and large do hate smoking. Which one of you reading this would willingly go back to the tar, nicotine carcinogens and thousands of chemicals in a cigarette? And don’t forget the taste.
Despite what’s going on in the real world, in Washington’s capital, Olympia, legislators recently went into high gear to stop the “threat” of e-juice and nicotine by proposing a 95 percent tax on all things vaping. They acted quickly and quietly, which is likely the model for all future attacks. Washington Vapers had less than 24 hours of notice before the first committee hearings. Fortunately, CASAA quickly put out a Call to Action and the Facebook and Reddit pages blew up. Vape stores were able to mobilize several hundred Vapers who took the time to drive to Olympia from all over the Northwest to oppose the bill.
Vapers won this round, but not because they had any sort of strategy going into it. A group of vape store owners and juice makers now are working together as the Anti-Tobacco Alliance to prepare for the next round, and the rounds after that. They have four things to accomplish before the next legislative session: 1) Educate politicians; 2) pick political candidates; 3) organize store owners and vapers; and, 4) educate the public.
Educate Politicians. In Washington State vaping support falls along political lines with our State’s elected Democrats generally supporting laws that tax vaping, or treat it like smoking. Although we reach out to our district’s respective legislators regardless of their positions on vaping, we really go the extra mile with the officials who are on the fence and may swing our way.
Pick Candidates. We want to know who’s going to be vape friendly and we want that in writing. Once we’ve vetted a candidate and deemed him, or her, qualified, we encourage every vape shop owner in that candidate’s district to at least provide in store campaign materials.
Organize Store Owners and Vapers. We are really relying on store owners to mobilize their customers. Most of our store owners are creating email lists as part of their businesses. Those lists are going to be essential to mobilize voters and coordinate contact with elected officials. Nothing gets a politician’s attention like a registered voter from their district.
Educate the Public. Every former smoker has a story to tell and we should be telling those stories. The public needs to hear the success stories of lives being wrestled away from big tobacco, of healthier lifestyles and children who aren’t growing up around tobacco. We also need to weave into those stories the conclusions of studies that have found vaping to be a valuable harm reduction tool.
As we mobilize and educate people and politicians we should keep in mind that even though many of our elected officials want to ban vaping, they actually do have good intentions. Unfortunately, those good intentions will lead to bad policy and tar stained results unless we all stay active in this fight.