As I write this, my fingers smell like incense and hippie soap.
By Wes Cipolla – June 7th, 2016
The stench on my clothes is courtesy of Smokie’s Tobacco in the Berkshire Mall. The sickeningly sweet store air is called “Lucky Charms Marshmallow with Glazed Donut.” This is one of the hundreds of electronic cigarette flavors available to customers. Unfortunately, it’ll soon be the closest thing to a free sample that vapers can get.
On May 5, the Food and Drug Administration decided to make free samples of vaping flavors illegal as of Aug. 8. This date is ominous for vapers like Muhlenberg graduate Adam Grunzh.
“I think it’s a good idea, because there are so many people sampling that are underage,” he said, “But it affects people who are of age who no longer get to sample.”
This is not the only federal rule that affects those who vape. On Aug. 8, it will also become illegal to sell e-cigarettes to those under 18.
“I think teens do it because of the cool factor,” said 21-year old Jared Valle. “They want to fit in, have friends, whatever.”
According to a 2015 Pennsylvania Youth survey, three times as many sixth- to 11th-graders vape as smoke regular cigarettes.
“I agree flat out,” said 22-year-old Christian Rivera, who was vaping with one hand and holding his 1-year-old son, Mason, with the other.
“No one under 18 should be allowed to vape,” Rivera said. “They should treat vaping like smoking.”
The biggest FDA regulation involves the flavors of e-cigarettes. As of Aug. 8, the FDA will begin full-scale investigations of the production and marketing of vaping products to see how they affect teens, according to published reports. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.
The marketing of vaping skews young, with flavors called “serum” and “Candyland.” Patriots can get the “USA Tobacco” flavor. At Smokie’s, there are hookahs shaped like AK-47s.
Flavor fans like 20-year-old Matthew Rothenberger are not happy.
“I’d rather smoke something cherry-flavored than tobacco-flavored,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adam, the recent Muhlenberg grad, said, “The taxing on the flavors is ridiculous.”
Starting in August, businesses will face a $240,000 fee per new flavor. Also, the FDA will be inspecting all vaping stores that opened their doors after Feb. 5, 2007. If a store does not pass a rigorous inspection, it will be closed down. These closures would cause the loss of an entire subculture.
“Stores are a sanctuary for a lot of vapers,” Rivera said.
To Jared, vaping “is a society.”