The people who vape in Larimer county are responsible adults in our community who are looking for stores, like my former store, Legacy Vapors, to help them find solutions to end their addiction to smoking cigarettes. Vaping is a healthier alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes. Similar to how adults can make choices about which condiments to put on their food, which flavor of liquor to consume, or which candy bar to consume, adults should have the same options when it comes to vapor flavors.
Thanks to COVID combined with overregulation, I made the painful choice to close my store. The one misunderstanding about vape shops is our purpose. Unlike a restaurant, liquor store or candy store, vape shops are providing less harmful products to responsible adults. Vapor stores are, instead, providing a pathway for people over the age of 21 who are looking to stop smoking combustible cigarettes, which contains more than 7,000 chemicals in one cigarette, and to create a healthier lifestyle by switching to vapor products, which contain fewer than 12 ingredients.
Unfortunately, the state of Colorado classified small vape stores as nonessential during the COVID-19 pandemic closures and closed all vapor stores for more than six weeks. The result of that six-week closure and the potential regulations by Larimer County this fall forced me to make the decision to close my store and lay off my employees. This was not a decision I took lightly, and one I stewed over for weeks. At a time in America’s history when unemployment is at an all-time high, and people are being laid off, or were laid off and having trouble finding work, now is not the time for local governments to regulate small businesses out of business and force more layoffs.
As the former owner of Legacy Vapors, I also understand it was my responsibility to prevent youth vaping. Most people under the age of 21 obtain vapor products from people who are of age. My store and other local vape shops that I work with do not allow people under the age of 21 to come into the stores, and we trained employees to look for people buying more than the average customer. This allowed employees to have conversations with customers to ensure they are only purchasing for themselves. I do not stand for underage smoking of cigarettes or vaping, and will continue to work with other stores in the county to ensure that products are not sold to people under 21 years of age.
If Larimer County puts a flavor ban on the ballot and it passes, it would destroy small businesses across the county by taking almost 95% of products off shelves overnight, leading to many job losses. Additionally, a flavor ban would limit vaping options for Coloradans over the age of 21, which does not give these adults the freedom of choice that they would have in a restaurant, liquor store or candy shop. Before I was forced to close, our customer base had been smoking for 30 to 40 years and simply did not want a vape that tastes like tobacco. Can you relate?
It’s my mission to help people, including those at the local and state levels, understand what a flavor ban will do to small businesses. Not only will more small businesses shut down, employees will be left jobless, leases will be broken, but the bigger issue is that the county would effectively force people who vape to revert to combustible cigarettes. With the stress of COVID-19 on everyone, now is not the time to reduce healthier options for people who smoke, nor is it the time to close small businesses who have survived COVID or to create more layoffs. I urge the leaders of Larimer County to reconsider a flavor ban on the ballot in November, as it would only have negative effects on people that vaping should be helping. As a vaping advocate, I believe it is important for Loveland to provide alternatives for responsible adults who want to quit smoking combustible cigarettes.
Brenner Brightbill is former owner of Legacy Vapors and a vape advocate in Loveland.