COLORADO SPRINGS — New restrictions on shipping vape products are having a significant impact on local shops.
FedEx is among the mail carriers banning the delivery of these products which is causing some shops to raise prices for their customers.
"It's driven the price of our shipping up 1,000 percent. We use to ship a package from store to store for $30 and now we can't get it from store to store for less than $325," said Josh Sprague, Owner of Absolute Vapor.
With changes to distribution, Sprague says they've had to make big changes, including using freight shipping to transport products.
"It's caused us to change our entire business model so to speak because we are used to sending shipments weekly into these stores and now we are having to do re-formulate and ship them bi-weekly, monthly, and in some scenarios quarterly. Some of our customers that we have in other states who buy our product, we've consolidated them into quarterly because they are smaller companies that can't afford these bigger shipping fees," said Sprague.
Sprague says the changes in shipping fees have caused them to increase prices to offset distribution costs. It's also impacting the type of products that come into the shop.
"One of the bigger impacts is the ingredients we get to make our products. It's been really hard getting things like nicotine across because companies are hesitant to ship it and a lot of companies are misconstruing the regulations and seeing them for more than what they are or less than what they are. All of that confusion leads to them dropping out," said Sprague.
The American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping advocacy organization, is fighting back against these shipping rules by sending a letter to FedEx signed by 428 small business owners urging the carrier to reconsider its decision.
"Please reconsider this disastrous decision, which will perpetuate another generation of smoking-related deaths – especially among underprivileged communities," the letter said. "Without the option to order vaping products at wholesale or ship their products to consumers, vape stores have seen their shipping options skyrocket in cost or evaporate entirely. If consumers are not able to access or afford these reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes, they will be forced to turn back to combustible tobacco, which is far more dangerous and will have life-long consequences on their health."
According to the organization, the effects of the ban will be felt disproportionately among minority, low-income, and LGBTQ communities. The letter points out that these communities “smoke cigarettes at higher rates than white and more affluent populations,” and Black Americans are among the most likely demographic to use e-cigarettes as a tool to quit combustible tobacco.
"It will have a lot of negative impacts on certain demographics, especially those who don't have access to vape products in smaller towns. When these prices start to rise, there is a certain point when people go back to smoking and that's what we are afraid of. We've helped a lot of people in Colorado Springs and to see our prices be forcibly raised and the loss of business is saddening," said Sprague.
Dacia Hudson, Program Manager for the Tobacco Education Prevention Partnership, says vaping products are not an approved smoking cessation or tool.
"Vaping products are relatively new, they came about in 2007 so there is still a lot to be learned about the products. We do know they contain a combination of chemicals that are known to cause short and long-term health effects. Some of those chemicals are known to cause cancer, most vape juices contain some levels of nicotine. It's definitely not safe for young people because their brains are developing so that's why we work so hard to prevent youth from starting," said Hudson.
She says people who vape are four times more likely to use a traditional cigarette within the following year.
"We celebrate anyone who is trying to quit smoking or using any kind of tobacco product. We recognize that some people may want to reach for an e-cigarette as a resource however it's not an approved smoking cessation or tool," said Hudson. "We strongly encourage people to utilize free resources we have in Colorado such as the Colorado Quitline which is a free program that people can get coaching and nicotine replacement therapy. That's really where we try to point people too, those resources that we know and proven to be effective."
Despite the new challenges, vape owners say they will continue fighting to keep the community away from tobacco products.
"FDA, the state, Prop EE, it seems like every angle they can come at us they have been. We're here fighting," said Sprague.