A rainbow of e-cigarette products lined the shelves behind the cash register of Cork ‘n’ Bottle Liquor Store. The manager, Zack Kridi, gestured to a few of the candy-colored boxes.
“This will have to go, and this will have to go,” he said, while gesturing to flavored products with names like “fruit medley,” “blue razz” and “lemonade.”
By Feb. 6, companies will no longer be allowed to sell flavored e-cigarette products because they are attractive to minors, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) news release. Menthol- and tobacco-flavored products may still be sold.
The FDA flavored e-cigarette ban will cause most e-cigarette products to disappear from Cork ‘n’ Bottle’s shelves.
The San Luis Obispo City Council will consider banning all e-products in San Luis Obispo, including menthol- and tobacco-flavored products, at the Feb. 4 City Council meeting. The potential City Council ban includes a ban on vape juices, according to City Council documents.
“This is a big part of our our business right now,” Cork ‘n’ Bottle owner Tom Kridi said. “I mean big. It’s going to hurt our businesses, our families and our employees.”
Cork ‘n’ Bottle has been selling e-cigarette products for about 10 years, but sales increased significantly about two years ago when e-cigarette company Juul became popular, Zack Kridi said. Since then, E-cigarette sales have replaced a significant amount of regular cigarette sales.
“We’re going to lose a lot of revenue,” Tom Kridi said.
Since Cork ‘n’ Bottle is a liquor store, the store can still rely on the sale of other products after the ban takes effect, Tom Kridi said. However, some smoke shop owners said they are worried they will experience more financial loss.
“We’re going to be out of business,” owner of Smoke and Vape Fadi Mahmoud said.
E-cigarette products comprise about 50 percent of Smoke and Vape’s sales. The profit margin on vape products is about 35 percent, whereas the profit margin on cigarettes is only six percent.
Mahmoud employs five people, and his rent is about $5,000 a month.
“How am I going to pay $5,000 and employees?” Mahmoud said. “How am I going to pay that, if I can’t sell [e-cigarettes]?”
Part of the reason city council will consider banning e-cigarettes is to prevent minors from using them.
“I do have a high school student, and I do know that they have access [to e-cigarettes] in very easy ways,” City Council member Erica A. Stewart said at a City Council meeting on Jan. 21. “This will not stop it all, but it will stop the ease.”
However, Mahmoud said they always check ID cards to avoid the risk of selling e-cigarette products to minors.
“We are not going to risk our income, our life with [selling to] minors,” Mahmoud said. “We’re trying our best to be in the middle, to meet the city in the middle. We don’t sell to minors, but still, there are people [who] have rights to get their product too, and we have the right to live.”