Last month, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law changing the age to buy tobacco products — including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapes — from 18 to 21.
The bill has been supported by large companies like Virginia-based tobacco company Altria, which also invests in e-cigarette maker, Juul.
But in Greater Williamsburg, at least one vape shop feels its products should not have been included in that legislation, which aims to curb a trickle-down of tobacco products to children under 18.
Denise Forney, the co-owner of Vape Zone at 4854 Longhill Road, said her vaping products differ widely from other “tobacco products,” such as the traditional cigarette and e-cigarettes.
Forney added the legislation will likely impact a segment of her customer base, but a majority of her customers are middle-aged and are not impacted by the new law.
Further, Forney believes anyone old enough to vote or serve their country should be allowed to decide whether they should pick up a vape.
“If you’re making a decision that’s going to impact the rest of your life at age 18, you are old enough to decide whether to vape,” Forney said.
The law goes into effect July 1.
Virginia has joined six other states in raising the age to buy tobacco: Maine, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon and Hawaii, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
The law lumps tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping equipment under the umbrella of “tobacco products,” and aims to curb use of tobacco products by children and teens.
The FDA estimates about 3.62 million middle and high school students nationally used e-cigarettes in 2018.
Like the new Virginia legislation, “vaping hardware” falls under the definition of “tobacco product,” the agency said in a 2017 opinion.
In September 2018, the FDA cracked down on Juul, ordering it to address issues with minors using the product or risk having its products pulled off the market.
“Rather than raising age to vape or smoke, let’s think about where the products are available,” Forney said.
While some of the vape juices contain nicotine, Forney does not sell any products containing actual tobacco, e-cigarettes, or the popular Juul — a product known for getting into the hands of children.
Forney sells vaporizers and juices comprised of water, food grade flavoring, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin.
Forney also said her store has been vigilant in keeping its products out of the hands of children. Customers are carded upon entry into the store if they look younger than 27 years old. Any child that comes into the store with a parent or guardian must stay away from the counter and product cases.
“We have people that come in to see if we’re carding,” Forney said. “Where these kids are getting these products are from your gas stations and Walmarts.”
The FDA has not designated vaping as an official smoking cessation method, although many vape shops use anecdotes to market vaping as an alternative to smoking.
Regardless, Forney educates her customers on the “do’s and dont’s” of using vaping equipment. She also only sells vape juices made in licensed labs that publish all their ingredients.
“We wanted a store that people felt comfortable going into for education,” Forney said.