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Statewide Vape Ban Puts Small Cape Cod Businesses in a Tough Spot

Sarah Mizes-Tan
A convenience store alerted customers about the recent vaping ban, and cleared their shelves of vape products.

Governor Baker’s four-month ban on vaping products took effect today, leaving Cape stores that sell vape products scrambling.

The governor’s ban on vaping products comes after a string of vaping-related illnesses, including 9 deaths across the country – though to date, no deaths have occurred in Massachusetts. State commissioner of the Department of Public Health Monica Bharel announced yesterday that the four-month moratorium on vaping product sales is meant to allow time for a full investigation.

"We don’t know what the cause of these illnesses is, but the only thing in common in each one of these cases is the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products," Bharel said. 

At Vape Cod in Falmouth, a store that specializes in selling all products related to vaping, morning opened to business as usual. But the town's health inspector came in to serve an official notice of closure soon after.

Customer Nick Riley managed to purchase his items right before the store officially closed, and he said he was stocking up. 

"I think we’ll be able to buy this stuff online. But the coils, that’s the difficult one – I don't want to buy the wrong one," he said, pointing to the replaceable coils that heat the liquid in vape pens.

He said he thought the ban was overly puritanical and that it would end up pushing more people into buying from the black market, which he said could be more dangerous. 

"You’re never going to be able to stop people from vaping, you’re just throwing a slight inconvenience into it," he said.

In Mashpee, at Triple M, Cape Cod’s only medical marijuana facility, employees had already pulled all their vaping-related products from shelves yesterday afternoon. Chief Operating Officer Kevin O’Reilly said his stores make about twenty percent of their revenue from vaping products.

"It’ll definitely cut into our sales, but we’re trying to offer alternatives and hope that the people who are buying regulated vapes from us aren’t going to go into the illicit black market to find their products, because those products aren’t tested," O'Reilly said. He added that he believes the Triple M stores will be able to weather the ban, and that they've been encouraging vapers to try out tinctures and lozenges instead. 

But for stores whose entire revenue is based around vaping, the ban means very bad news without much warning. Vape Cod owner Erik Tarvin operates three stores across the Cape, and said the announcement came as a surprise.

"Very surpised," said. "We knew something was coming down the highway towards us, you know, but I didn’t think it was going to be this far overreaching." 

He said he'll be looking to fight the ban, but he wasn't optimistic. He worried that the ban might last long enough to put his stores out of business. 

"At this point, the doors are shut, Massachusetts is proposing a four month ban, " Tarvin said. "Whether we’ll be able to wait that out remains to be seen. My feeling is the vast majority, if not all of the small business vapor shops in Massachusetts will be closed [for good]."  

He said there are around 300 vape product stores around the state that could be seriously impacted by the moratorium. The Massachusetts ban is one of the strongest in the nation, as it bars sales of both e-cigarettes and cannabis vaping products.