LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A business owner and vaping advocate in Lexington says that if a ban of flavored nicotine were to go into effect, it could signal the end of the industry, and he believes it could backfire.
Tony Florence tells LEX 18's Mike Valente that flavored e-liquids make up about 95% of the retail he sells at his various stores. If the ban goes into effect, he said his business and many others would become unsustainable.
"It's truly horrifying, because what it essentially does is it puts ten thousand businesses out of business, over 100,000 employees will be all gone in six weeks," said Florence.
He claims there is a fundamental misunderstanding at play. He points to an FDA warning that in many cases, patients report getting sick after vaping THC products, not the flavored nicotine that he sells.
"The CDC is basically trying to cover their bases. They said definitely no THC products off the streets and no e-cigarettes. It's really interesting because they're conflating the two, they're saying they're basically the same product, when really, it's not. One is you're vaping THC. The other is you're vaping nicotine," said Florence.
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist Angela Brumley tells LEX 18 that there is not enough concrete data to pinpoint what is behind the uptick in vaping-related illnesses.
"Some of the people who were sick and have died were vaping THC, some were just vaping nicotine, and some were vaping both. So we can't say definitely yet," Brumley said.
She stresses the urgency of the moment, saying they can't wait for more definitive data.
"The one reason we're pushing so hard for flavor ban, there's one reason: it's for young people. There's a saying: they come for the flavors, they stay for the addiction," she said.
Florence said that he believes the flavored nicotine has helped ween adults off tobacco, and without these products, vaping businesses will fold in a matter of weeks.
"You can say that kids like flavors. Well adults obviously like flavors too, and by just eliminating the product, you're eliminating an option for the ten million plus vapers that are out there. The adult vapors, you're eliminating that option to them and making them go back to cigarettes," said Florence. "Flavored e-liquids, nicotine e-liquids are about 95 percent of the industry, so once you eradicate that, every store goes under."