Brunswick vapers look elsewhere – Portland Press…


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brunswick-vapers-look-elsewhere-–-portland-press…

Primo Glass employee Justin LeBlanc, mans the shop’s vape products section. By June 1, the store must cease the sale of all flavored nicotine products, which the store’s owners say accounts for half of Primo Glass’ business.

Well over 150 flavored vape products line the wall of Primo Glass in Brunswick. In just three weeks, only two varieties will remain: tobacco and flavorless.

Local vape store owners and customers are preparing for life under Brunswick’s flavored tobacco and nicotine ban, which goes into effect June 1.

“A good amount of people are getting a stockpile,” said Justin LeBlanc, who works at Primo Glass. “Me included.”

Many of the store’s customers are buying their favorite products in bulk ahead of the ban, even as they ask for advice on where they can shop for their preferred items in the future, LeBlanc said.

Vape store employees in other Midcoast towns and even central Maine say they’ve already heard from customers from Brunswick and Portland, which enacts its own flavored tobacco ban starting the same day as Brunswick.

“Quite a few people from Brunswick have definitely been coming here now,” said Joseph Armstrong of Not Another Glass shop in Topsham, less than 2 1/2 miles from Primo Glass. “I’ve already seen an influx of people.”

“Some of the stores down there are telling them, “you might want to start finding a new shop,” agreed Andrew Gage, who manages Vapor Room in Gardiner. “Come June, we are expecting to see a surge of business.”

According to Primo Glass Co-owner Jeff Smith, the ban will push a huge amount of business out of Brunswick without making it meaningfully more difficult for teens — who are already not allowed into 21-plus retailers like Primo Glass — to get their hands on nicotine products.

How do they have the right to tell a 21-plus store they can’t sell 21-plus products?” Smith said. “Why would (the town council) do this?”

Several vape store workers expressed frustration that politicians at the local, state and federal level have targeted flavored e-cigarettes while allowing the sale of flavored alcohol.

Yet Brunswick town councilors, who unanimously approved the ban at an April meeting, pointed to sky-high rates of e-cigarette use among Maine teenagers.

According to the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 45% of Maine high school students said they had vaped at least once, and 29% said they had vaped within the past 30 days. Other research has shown that the vast majority of e-cigarette users prefer flavors.

That preference for flavors, combined with bans in Portland and Brunswick, may be good for business in the short-term for vape sellers in other towns, but stores and customers across the state are worried that more bans are on the way.

“We get asked on a daily bas if we’ve heard anything about this area being banned yet,” said Gage, who estimated about 80% of Vapor Room’s business is vaping related. “We just have to tell them we’re going day by day.”

Flavors Hook Kids Maine, which backed the Brunswick ban, has openly discussed its desire to see a similar ban at the state level.

This could be bad news for people like Armstrong, who used flavored vape products to quit smoking. While scientists don’t know exactly how dangerous vaping is, they generally agree it’s a substantially healthier option than combustible cigarettes, Kenneth Warner, professor emeritus of public health and dean emeritus at the University of Michigan School of Public Health told the Forecaster in March.

Smith, who said vape products made up more than half of Primo Glass’ business, said he has considered moving the shop to a neighboring town. But he said fears of future bans have put those plans on hold.

“We’d gladly move if we knew it was going to be safe, but that’s a very open hole that we could fall into by trying to dodge the bullet,” Smith said. “Why move if the next town is going to be Topsham?”

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