Local vape shop owners react to talk of federal ban

Chris Kasperek, owner of Ace Vapor on Union Street in Westfield. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- The city’s Board of Health will be weighing in on a ban or possible restrictions on the sale of flavored vaping products Thursday following recent reports of spikes in lung diseases that some say are caused by vaping.

The Board of Health discussed such a move during its last meeting in August, when Westfield’s Public Health Director Joseph Rouse said that there has been a public push from the City Council, Police Department, and Westfield residents to do something about the vaping problem.

That meeting came just weeks before the federal government announced that flavored vaping products may soon be taken off the market. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating an outbreak of lung diseases in multiple states that they associate with the use of e-cigarettes.

President Donald J. Trump has indicated his support for such a move, the State House News Service reports. “We are looking at vaping very strongly,” said Trump. “It’s very dangerous. Children have died, people have died.”

Local vape shop owners, however, are not pleased with these announcements. Several shop owners said that legal vaping products have been misrepresented in the national media as being the cause of these lung disease outbreaks.

Chris Kasperek, owner of Ace Vapor on Union Street, said that he thinks the cause of the outbreak is illicit THC oil cartridges. While safer THC cartridges, otherwise called dab pens, are sold in legal marijuana dispensaries, cheaper illegal alternatives have been popping up as well.

“The cause of that is illegal, black market marijuana cartridges that contain vitamin E,” said Kasperek. “When it’s heated and vaporized it basically becomes an acid. But all the major news are promoting it as regular e-cigarette vaping and not the illegal marijuana cartridge vaping.”

Kasperek said that, if it comes to his shop being shut down, he will be fine as he runs another business. His concern would be for the customers who are trying to quit smoking straight tobacco or have already successfully done so. He fears that the removal of their alternative to cigarettes may turn many people back to smoking.

Other vape shop owners agreed with Kasperek.

One such shop in Westfield, the owners of which requested anonymity, said that they fear for their own livelihood if the federal or city governments enact a ban on vape sales. They maintained that they do everything they possibly can to keep their vape products out of the hands of teenagers.

“We didn’t get into this to get kids entrapped,” said the owner. They noted that, while inhaling any sort of vapor or smoke is bad for you, their products are less harmful than cigarettes or the fake THC cartridges.

At the Board of Health meeting in August, the possibility of outright banning the sale of vaping products in Westfield was discussed, but it was quickly shut down for fear of jeopardizing the livelihoods of the owners. Other possibilities that were discussed included limiting the sale to stores like Ace Vapor that specialize in vape sales and removing such products from  convenience stores.

“With all of the information that has come out since our last meeting, the Board will be having a general discussion on this issue at the next meeting,” said Rouse.

Should the federal government enact its own ban, it won’t matter how the Board of Health rules.

Peter Currier can be reached at [email protected]

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