By Amanda Wheeler
President, American Vapor Manufacturers Association
Level-headed observers have long warned that vaping bans will lead to a black market. A quick scan of local police reports shows that the crime spree is already happening – vape store robberies across the country are racking up millions of dollars in damages and jeopardizing public safety.
The robberies are not isolated incidents. Vape shops in Oregon, Nevada, Ohio, Nebraska, and Georgia have all faced brazen hoodlums who don ski masks and smash in windows, stuff bags full of loot and escape before police respond. Security surveillance footage could easily be mistaken for a Hollywood blockbuster movie, but it’s happening at a strip mall down the street. Crooks have even gone as far as driving a car through the front door to make a quick entrance and easy escape.
Law enforcement in Gwinnett County, Georgia, reported more than a half-dozen robberies just this year, indicating an organized criminal element is coordinating the raids on vape shops. In Las Vegas, a shop owner fought off hooded robbers with a knife; in Cleveland, a shop was broken into twice during the same week; in North Carolina, a gunman robbed a vape shop in broad daylight.
For adults who want to quit cigarettes, nicotine vaping is a lifeboat of hope. Few outside the community of adults trying to quit understand just how hard it is to ditch cigarettes., From your local city council member to the FDA commissioner, the elites pushing regulations view vaping as something that should be stopped in its tracks.
The FDA has banned 99% of all vaping products by fumbling its regulatory review process. For what it can’t shut down using threats, the agency recently turned to federal courts to close the doors of small and medium-sized manufacturers who had been caught up in the impossible bureaucracy. The more the FDA’s regulations stifle legitimate sales of a product demanded by adults who want to quit cigarettes, the more criminals have stepped in to make a profit.
Who is at fault for the recent spate of robberies? Let’s not misdirect the blame – the criminal is to blame for the crime and violence. But the regulators are not innocent. The public health community is hell-bent on taking all vapes off legitimate store shelves. But the demand for vaping products will remain, and illicit markets will fill the gap.
Meanwhile, these same public health authorities will continue to ignore the pleas of millions of adults who need our support and access to a nicotine product – not just a single product, but a wide variety, including flavored vapes. Research has proven that flavors help keep adults vaping, not returning to cigarettes.
Prohibition, just as it did with bootleggers and booze, only leads innocent people into lives of crime. If the FDA truly cared about improving public health, they would make nicotine vaping products readily available for adults. Instead of protecting the public, we now have an FDA acting like wanna-be G-men chasing down vape shop owners instead of the criminals breaking through the front door.