In December, Donald Trump signed a bill that raised the national age requirement for buying tobacco and electronic cigarette products to 21.
But Alachua County did it first.
On Oct. 22, the county signed a similar ordinance that is now hitting local vape shops hard. Many report lower sales and lower employee pay, and they aren’t sure how to weather out the change.
Mary Ewing, who opened Escape 2 Vape smoke shop with her husband in June 2015, said about 30 percent of their customers were between 18 and 20 years old and had been vaping since they were 18. Many began to drive out of the county to buy vape products, which took business elsewhere.
“If you were to eat Draino you would probably die, but we’re not banning eating,” Mary Ewing said. “It [the new vaping law] is not gonna stop getting kids from getting their hands on it.”
The new law is meant to stop teen vaping and help prevent vape-related illnesses. As of Jan. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a total of 2,711 vape-related hospitalizations resulting in lung injury.
Thirty-seven percent of people hospitalized were from ages 18 to 24. The Food and Drug Administration said that more than 5 million U.S. teens in middle and high schools were vaping last year.
The Ewings were long-time smokers until vaping helped their addictions, they said. Mary Ewing said they have both not smoked in 17 years and want to use their experience to help other smokers get off of cigarettes. Greg said he has been thanked by the customers that they have gotten to quit smoking.
“The only reason I got into this business is because I had lost half my family to cigarettes,” Greg said. “I don’t want anyone to go through that.”
Kyle Manning, a 22-year-old employee of Grab Bag Co., said that the store he works at lost about 10 to 20 percent of their customers after the law was passed. He believes that people who are currently between 18 to 20 years old should be exempt from the law.
“For someone like me, I quit cigarettes because of vaping,” Manning said. “So I could see if someone was 18 before the law passed, and it was helping them quit smoking, it would be a sudden change.”
Brewsters Smoke-n-Brew vape shop has lost about 30 to 40 percent of their business in the last year, the store’s 21-year-old cashier Skye Graves said. He doesn’t think that the business will close, but it’s definitely feeling the loss of customers, he said.
The store is trying to run a radio ad to increase business, but Graves isn’t optimistic. He said they have to get used to the lower numbers — otherwise, they’re just expecting something that isn’t going to happen.
“I find it ridiculous if you can go fight and kill for your government and not be able to smoke,” Graves said. “If they want it, they’re gonna get it.”
Contact Anna Wilder at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @anna_wilderr.
A woman walks by 101 Smoke Shop on SW Archer Road.
Anna Wilder is a second-year journalism major and the criminal justice reporter. She's from Melbourne, Florida, and she enjoys being outdoors or playing the viola when she's not writing.