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Customers flock to Post Falls vape shop following flavor ban

POST FALLS, Idaho — Following Washington’s ban on flavored vapor products, vapers appear to be flocking to a Post Falls vape store just a mile and a half from the state line.

The ban is coming at a price. While the ban has more than doubled sales for Vaporland’s location at the Tedder Business Center, sales at its Western Washington locations plummeted and forced its owner to shutter two stores.

“This location has seen substantial growth,” said Vaporland owner Michael Thorn speaking from the Post Falls location on Friday. When asked about new customers, Thorn motioned to the parking lot outside his store front. “Look at the license plates. Every license plate out there is Washington.”

Amidst increasing reports of vaping-related illnesses, Washington state lawmakers in October banned the sale and purchase of flavored vaping products. The state board of health approved the ban, which will last until Feb. 7, 2020. Washington Governor Jay Inslee had argued that that flavored vaping products are attractive to children, saying flavors such as bubble gum and cinnamon exist for “one reason and one reason only – make it more appealing to young children.” 

Since the ban, daily sales at Vaporland’s Post Falls store have jumped from $800 a day to roughly $2,000 a day, said Thorn. The location has seen customers driving over from Seattle and other parts of Western Washington to purchase flavored products that, while legal in Idaho, can’t be purchased in Washington anymore, added store manager Eric Cox. 

“It’s been really crazy,” Cox said. 

Increased sales in Post Falls have been offset by losses at other locations, Thorn explained. Following Washington’s flavor ban, sales tanked at three Vaporland stores in Western Washington. Thorn said sales at a store he owns in Lake Stevens dropped from $3,000 a day to just $385. While that store remains open, Thorn recently closed stores he owns in Marysville and Lynwood.

“[The ban] is putting 14 of my friends that have shops in Spokane out of business. So the reaction isn’t good. Vaping is kind of a close-knit family,” said Thorn.

Thorn took issue with lawmakers’ decision to ban flavored products, arguing that the move will make issues surrounding vaping illnesses worse and not better. He said that products like Juul and others with high nicotine concentrations were behind increased reports of minors beginning to vape, not special flavorings. 

“It’s not the flavor they’re after, it’s the buzz,” Thorn said.

Moreover, Thorn argued that the flavored e-liquids and products he sells are reasonably safe. 

“All of our flavoring is made from stuff that’s been tested, that’s safe to vape,” he said. “Now people are going to make their own vaping e-liquids from stuff they can get because flavors aren’t available. And they’re going to get sick.”

“If they truly, truly cared about the health of people in Washington, they’d outlaw cigarettes. Not vaping,” Thorn added.

Increased vapor business tied to the ban doesn’t appear to be widespread in North Idaho, though. KREM reached out to a handful of other vapor shops in Kootenai County to ask about the ban and its impacts. A store in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene reported some new out-of-state customers, but not a significant increase in business. Two other Post Falls vapor shops didn’t return messages seeking comment.

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RELATED: Wash. Board of Health approves ban on flavored vaping products

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