BOSTON- Local vape shop owners traveled to the State House Thursday afternoon to protest the ban on vape sales imposed directly by Gov. Charlie Baker last month.
Shop owners from across the state, including at least one owner from Westfield, protested Baker’s vape sale ban that they said has cost them a lot of business.
Afzzal Mohammed, one of the owners of No-Limits vape shop in Westfield, was among the owners who traveled to the state’s capital to protest the ban. His wife and co-owner of No-Limits, Ashra Fathima, said that the ban on vape sales has dramatically cut down on their business, forcing them to cut their hours. Mohammed said that around 100 shop owners and employees were outside the State House for the protest.
“We did what we could do,” said Mohammed, “But ever since they have started the ban, business dropped by about 80 or 90 percent.”
They had previously been open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but now they are only open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
They are able to remain open in the limited capacity only because vaping products and e-cigarettes are not their only products for sale. They also sell smoking accessories like water pipes and hookahs as well as normal cigarettes. Despite sales of these products continuing, it may not be enough for them.
“Business is not good,” said Fathima.
The protest comes on the heels of two lawsuits that were filed against Baker contesting the ban. A complaint was filed in federal court this week by the shop owners of Mass Dynamics in Weymouth, Boston Vapor in Salem, New Hampshire and Vick’s Vape Shop in Medford. The complaint alleges that the four-month ban on vape sales imposed by Gov. Baker is in violation of the Constitution and will financially damage their businesses, possibly beyond repair.
Attorney Craig O’Rourke, who is representing the shop owners in the federal suit, said that other shop owners have expressed interest in signing on to the complaint.
“It’s going to put them out of business,” said O’Rourke. “It’s a death sentence. They’re trying to figure out what to tell their families and their employees.”
Baker’s ban followed reports from across the country of mysterious lung illnesses that have been blamed on unregulated and already illegal black market vaping products. Opponents of the ban said that the ban will make the problem worse, as now the only option for people seeking vaping products is to turn to the black market.
Most of the blame for the mysterious lung illnesses has been placed on illicit THC vaping cartridges that were cut with vitamin E to make them look more full. When vitamin E is heated up to vaping temperatures, it apparently converts into an acidic substance that eats away at the lungs, causing the illnesses.
While stores like No-Limits and Ace Vapor in Westfield have been able to remain open in a limited capacity due to their larger product line, others like Gorilla Vapes who solely sold vape products have had their doors closed since the Westfield Health Department began enforcing the ban.
Mohammed and Fathima both said they don’t feel like they will be able to keep No Limits open for the entire four month ban. They opened up the shop just three months ago.