YUCAIPA (CBSLA) — A number of small business owners say they got into the vaping industry to help adults move away from smoking cancer-causing cigarettes, but the Food and Drug Administration felt that a number of vaping products — especially flavored products — were being marketed to children.
“It was a beautiful thing when I started this business,” Kelly Collett, owner of a Yucaipa vape shop, said. “People were happy. People hugged me.”
But just one day after the New Year, the FDA took action in an attempt curb the teen vaping crisis — announcing its plan to ban mint, desert and fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges popular with teenagers across the county.
“We need to take steps to protect kids from these epidemic-level uses of e-cigarettes,” Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products, said at a news conference.
But Colette said he’s expecting his business to take another hit following the latest restrictions. He said he already lost 40% of his customers after the last round of regulations.
“I have been struggling so hard the last three months just to survive,” he said. “It was very bad. I could have lost my life.”
But the FDA said the regulations are necessary as instances of vaping-related lung disease continue to climb.
Two months ago, CBS2/KCAL9 spoke with 15-year-old Zane Martin from his hospital bed at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital where he was being treated for a severe vaping-related lung injury.
“It was very bad,” Martin said of his lung injury. “I could have lost my life.”
But Collett said that legitimate vape shops, like his, follow California law and do not allow anyone under 21 inside.
“We’ve never marketed to children,” he said.
Collett said the latest ban will ultimately bar his adult customers, who kicked their cigarette habits, from buying flavored vape products — though the FDA said that was not the ban’s intent.
“We have to balance that with still providing some access to e-cigarettes for adults,” Zeller said.
Anti-tobacco groups said the new policy still stops short by continuing to allow the sale of menthol- and tobacco-flavored products.