Louisiana's Vape Ban Slashes Smoke Shop Profits

Louisiana's Vape Ban Slashes Smoke Shop Profits

Louisiana recently implemented a new law, Act 414, which severely restricts the sale of vaping products in the state. The legislation aims to curb teen vaping but has decimated revenue at local smoke shops. Owners report 50-60% declines in sales and some are considering closing shop or moving out of state.

New Regulations Gut Vape Product Selection

The law forces retailers to remove nearly all disposable vapes from shelves. Shop owners can only sell items included on a state-approved product registry, which contains just a tiny fraction of formerly available products.

"Our walls are empty. It's really affecting me, to the point I'm thinking of moving out of this state," said Omar Dawud, owner of the 318 Cloudz vape shop chain.

The registry lists a few rechargeable vape devices from major tobacco brands, mainly JUUL and Vuse. Just six disposable vape products made the cut, none of which customers actually want to purchase.

Popular brands like Elf Bars and Esco Bars, known for their fruity flavors attractive to youth, failed to make the registry. So local retailers cannot sell them despite strong customer demand.

"They want to tell you what to sell and what not to sell. It’s like a big, big monopoly," said smoke shop owner Mohamad Nofel.

Sales Plummet, Jobs Lost

Smoke shop owners statewide report massive revenue declines since the vape ban took effect on October 1st. Some have already resorted to layoffs to survive the loss of business.

Dawud said vape sales at his five stores have plunged 60%, representing nearly $450,000 in lost revenue. He's had to terminate several employees.

"Today I turned away like five, six customers," said Nofel, who has covered former top-selling vape products at his shop.

Oso, an employee at Fly High Smoke Shop, stated the store hardly had any sales one recent day. Vapes were previously their main moneymaker.

The question remains whether the state will lose out on the extra vape tax revenue the law aimed to raise by so sharply limiting product availability.

Health Advocates Support Ban

Supporters praise Act 414 as a vital step to curb rampant teen vaping in Louisiana by restricting access.

"It was designed to protect our youth from access to a product that has been deemed dangerous to their health," said Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Ernest Legier.

The law requires vaping products sold in Louisiana obtain FDA marketing authorization to demonstrate safety. Flavored options clearly aimed at young people fail to meet that bar.

Legier expressed sympathy for struggling vape shop owners but emphasized public health as the priority. Other impacted retailers also recognize teen vaping as an issue, though they criticize the state's heavy-handed approach.

Customers Left Scrambling

Many vape users trying to quit smoking have faced challenges due to their preferred products disappearing overnight. Some say they may resort to buying cigarettes again.

Customer Orese Alford hoped to purchase vapes at Deja Vu Smoke Shop after the regulations kicked in, but "the ones that I do normally use, none of them were on the shelves."

Alford believes the crackdown will boost cigarette sales as former smokers struggle to find acceptable vape alternatives.

At other shops, angry customers have lashed out over no longer finding their vapes in stock. One even threatened suicide if an employee wouldn't sell them a device.

While supportive of protecting kids, some feel heavy-handed prohibition went too far. Steps like banning flavors would have sufficed without eliminating popular vaping options relied on by adult smokers.

The Future of Vape Retail Remains Uncertain

The situation remains in flux for Louisiana vape retailers. A pending lawsuit aims to overturn the regulations as unconstitutional, arguing the product ban amendment violates the original intention of the law.

For now, smoke shop owners face massive revenue hits from the vanish of vaping products. Some contemplate closing up shop or moving their business out of state. Customers search largely in vain for their favored vape brands.

Public health goals of curbing youth vaping come at a steep cost for vape enthusiasts and small retailers. Only time will tell whether banning most these products proves an effective strategy or simply drives business elsewhere.