In early February, Los Angeles banned the public use of e-cigs. Last week, Long Beach city council took those regulations even further and decided that no vaping in public means no vaping inside vape shops, either. Right now, they're the only city in Southern California that plans to strip this crucial liberty.
James Demetra, owner of Vapes of Wrath in Long Beach, believes the regulation is redundant. "As shop owners, we already do a lot of the regulation ourselves," he says, "We're not selling to people under 18 and we're not vaping next to city hall or a playground."
Even if most vapers already follow regulations, that doesn't change the fact that e-liquid, the nicotine and nicotine-free juice used in e-cigs, isn't actually tobacco. Adrian Adrineda, a distributor for On Deck Modz, a company that makes high quality e-cig hardware, said it's clear that the distinction between the two is not understood by the general public and that Long Beach city council was sorely miseducated. "We speak with a lot of shops, because we want to know what's going on, and I found out that 50 percent of liquid sold in South [Orange] County is zero milligrams." That means half of the liquid purchased in South County has absolutely no nicotine in it whatsoever–an even farther cry from a tobacco product.
During last week's meeting, the council discussed if they should amend the specific decision to bar vaping in shops. "If you watch the city council meeting, some of the members said they don't have enough information to make a proper decision, but they decided to go with the original ordinance anyway," Adrineda says. The amendment was rejected, nine to zero.
Sadly, misrepresentation is not the only hit to the vape community. Baring vapers from puffing in stores means ruin for small businesses and possible safety issues. "Long Beach got the worst end of the stick," Demetra says, "Many smokers want to quit, but are skeptical about e-cigarettes. It's our job to show people how to properly use them. You're dealing with batteries and heating elements and vape shops are crucial to teaching safety."
The ban is also counterintuitive when it comes to keeping e-cigs out of youngersters' hands; if many shops close, the online demand will be higher, making it even easier for underage kids to purchase them. There's also the simple fact that customers like to try juices before buying.
Adrineda believes that when it comes down to it, small business is the last thing on Long Beach's mind. "Long Beach doesn't really care about small businesses," he says, "Most of their revenue comes from the port."
Petitions and rallying from the community may help Long Beach take a closer look at their regulations, but until then, vape shops need permits that label them as "cigar lounges" if they want to continue vaping indoors. Unfortunately, it's a category which only further adds to the misrepresentation. If you want to support vape shops in Long Beach, sign Demetra's Move On Petition.