The New Orleans City Council is proposing a ban on smoking in public places, including in smoke shops. But the sweeping legislation could have an unintended effect on businesses that sell electronic cigarettes and other vaping products.
Vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes, has caught on so much in the past year alone that Oxford Dictionaries named “vape” their word of the year for 2014. But not everyone is as enthusiastic about this new technology that has helped millions of people around the world quit smoking — namely, the legislators who want to pass these bans.
Anthony Kolesa, a vape shop owner in New Orleans, said he was disappointed that the proposed ban conflated smoking with vaping.
“What we’re really looking for is being separated from cigarettes,” he said. “If there are regulations you want to get in place for electronic cigarettes, that’s great… but our concern is once we’re lumped in with cigarettes, we’re tied there forever.”
Perhaps most surprisingly, however, Big Tobacco is supportive.
Two such companies, Reynolds American Inc. and Altria (which used to be Philip Morris), have entered the e-cig market, but they have yet to put other vaping marketers out of business.
Both companies released their own “cigalikes” last year, which are disposable model e cigs that tend to have limited battery life and options for vape users. While they might help some users transition from smoking to vaping, there are other products on the market that offer more flavors and produce greater vapor.
And even experts in the tobacco industry, such as Richard Smith, a spokesperson for Reynolds Vapor Co. of Reynolds American, agrees with the assessment. Smith said that as more tobacco companies begin selling e cigs, the demand for public use will grow, as well.
“History is full of emerging competitors disrupting industry incumbents with innovative new products that provide better solutions to consumers. The passion of the entrepreneurs searching for a better product works alongside established industry R&D to enlarge the industry.” John Froman, CEO Vapor 4 Life.
Then there’s the stigma that has existed throughout vaping history, which says that ecigs are just as harmful, if not more so, than tobacco cigarettes.
Proponents of electronic cigarettes say that this simply isn’t true. The e liquid in these devices contains propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, which carry the flavoring and create the smoke-like vapor.
While e liquids can contain the addictive substance of nicotine, which is optional in some varieties, supports argue that they don’t have the same harmful carcinogens and ingredients found in cigarettes — such as tar, arsenic and even ammonia.
Even if e cigs don’t get banned in certain public places, however, they are already being taxed. In Minnesota, single use e-cigs and liquid that contains tobacco are taxed at a rate of 95% the wholesale cost of those e-cigs; the devices and liquids that don’t contain tobacco, however, are not taxed in the state.