Local vape shops say FDA running them out of business

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it will regulate e-cigarettes the same way it regulates tobacco.

The regulations are in response to FDA concerns over long-term exposure to e-cig vapes and an increase in vaping among teens.

With the new regulations, the FDA says vapes can no longer be sold to anyone under the age of 18. The agency will also require vape products to carry warning labels like cigarettes.

But mom-and-pop vape shops say they are upset about the new federal review process the FDA will start implementing for all vape products. It is called the pre-market tobacco application.

In 90 days, the new guidelines will take effect, including the review process. It means every single vape shop in the country will have to submit each of its vaping products to the FDA for testing.

Vape shops say the fees for getting products tested and reviewed by the FDA are so high, most vape shops will go bankrupt and have to close their doors.

Jennifer Lucas, the owner of Best Vapes Charlottesville, says the FDA has dealt her business a fatal blow.

"It wipes out the industry. The entire, entire industry," Lucas said about the new regulations from the FDA.

Lucas and her shop are one of thousands that will have to submit products to the FDA for testing.

She says it is a move that will likely cause her to close, because she cannot afford all the fees associated with the pre-market application.

"The costs of these applications are estimated to be in the millions of dollars," Lucas said. "Small businesses can't afford that. Plain, flat simple."

Lucas is not the only vape shop in town that is feeling the chill of these new regulations.

"Not everybody is going to have money to do product testing like they're asking for," echoed Mom and Pop Vaper Shop General Manager Tony Tallini about the new regulations.

Standing in front of a vape wall display, Tallini says right now shops are not sure what the the FDA will decide are the final application fees. But he says they will likely land somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000 per product.

"For shops that have multiple products, that's enough to put them out of business right there," Tallini said about the application fees.

He says even successful vape shops are not safe.

"For shops that can afford it, it's going to be pretty difficult for growth at this point," Tallini added.

With such high fees, Lucas says only two groups of vape manufacturers could survive the new FDA regulations.

"The tobacco companies and the pharmaceutical companies are the only ones I know of that can afford to put those types of products on the market," Lucas said about the financial power of big tobacco and pharma.

As a result, many local vape shops, which believe the products have helped people quit smoking, feel betrayed by the FDA.

"If we can get people away from smoking and on to vaping, then why is there so much controversy to it," Tallini asked about the debate over the health impacts of vaping.

"So many of us have invested our entire life's savings into this business because we are so passionate about it. Because our passion is to help break people's addictions to tobacco, and the FDA doing this is a slap in the face," Lucas concluded.

Several other vape shops say it's wrong for the FDA to compare vaping to tobacco, because there is no tobacco in vaping products, just nicotine.

For its part, the FDA says the new applications are aimed at making sure vaping products are safe for people to use.

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