Ban on vaping product sales impacting local businesses

  • The Enthusiast employee Freddy Rigollaud vapes outside the store on Miles Street in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Over half of The Enthusiast’s revenue comes from vaping products, although it also sells glassware and smoking paraphernalia. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People read the notice to customers about stopped vape sales at The Enthusiast on Miles Street in Greenfield. Gov. Charlie Baker placed a four-month ban on sales Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A notice to customers about stopped vape sales hangs at The Enthusiast on Miles Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2019 6:27:53 AM

A statewide four-month ban on the sale of vaping products has made some specialty retailers re-evaluate whether their businesses are still viable, and will cause others to re-orient their business models.

The ban was announced Tuesday and put into effect Wednesday, in response to an outbreak of lung diseases that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suspects may be related to vaping. The ban applies categorically to all vaping products — electronic cigarettes, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vaporizers and related accessories — making it the broadest ban in the country, according to the Associated Press.

At 253 Farmacy, a new marijuana retailer and grower in Montague, all vaping products were removed from the storefront and stored in a “quarantine” area in the back, said co-owner Seth Rutherford.

Vaping products have accounted for about 15 percent of sales since the store opened three weeks ago, Rutherford said. He said that the store does not have a plan yet as to how it might modify its business model.

“If there is a problem, then obviously we don’t want to sell them,” Rutherford said. “We’re hoping they find the root to this.”

Other stores were affected more severely, like The Enthusiast, a store in Greenfield that specializes in vaping products. Over half the store’s revenue comes from vaping products, although it also sells glassware and smoking paraphernalia, said Mike Behn, chief operating officer of Sandri Energy, which owns The Enthusiast.

“We’d love to try to keep The Enthusiast going somehow,” Behn said. “We have a lot of good staff members down there. We’d like to keep them employed if we can.”

The sales ban is in effect through Jan. 25, and is intended to give regulators time to better understand the cause of the lung diseases, according to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office. As of Monday, 61 apparent cases were reported in Massachusetts — a jump from 38 last week — and 530 cases nationwide, according to The Boston Globe. The lung diseases resemble inhalation injuries and seem to correlate with vaping, but a common product or ingredient has not been identified, according to the CDC.

Some suspect that black market manufacturers may have started using a new material recently, which could be causing the diseases.

Behn emphasized that The Enthusiast has only carried properly regulated products, and said he hopes regulators will find that the health issues were related to black market products.

Until then, he said, customers will likely be driven to other states to buy products.

“If they have a habit, they’ll continue to do it,” he said.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.




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