The owner of Centralia’s Vape D Lish, Allen Kettle, had a large inventory of products last week made up primarily of flavored e-liquid.
This week, those shelves are empty.
On Oct. 10, the Washington State Board of Health responded to the lung injuries associated with vaping by placing a 120-day ban on flavored vaping products in the state.
The decision puts Kettle’s business — and others in Lewis County and around the state — in a precarious position.
An employee at Vape D Lish, Sabrina Ayers, expressed her concerns for her future at the business located on East High Street in Centralia.
“We can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to stay open, and then I might be out of the job,” she said.
Kettle said his shop was making about $2,500 a day before the ban and now it’s making less than $100 a day. Vape D Lish also has a location in Longview.
He said he cares about his four employees, but he can’t meet his payroll requirements unless he makes at least $400 a day. He told The Chronicle this week his profits are down 94.48 percent since the ban.
“I’m going to do everything I can not to close,’’ Kettle said. “I try not to cry out loud in front of people. … It’s one of those things that, I put everything I have into this, I took out a second (mortgage) on my house for this. If this fails, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Kettle said.
Kettle said he is trying to keep his shop afloat by bringing in more non-flavored and tobacco-flavored e-liquids and non-vapable CBD products.
“People who use vaping products to quit smoking cigarettes don’t want to vape the tobacco flavors because it reminds them of cigarettes,” Kettle said, adding that he hasn’t sold much of those products.
Though the flavored vape liquids are not available to purchase legally, Kettle said he’s concerned a black market will emerge for homemade products.
“I’ve been a vape juice manufacturer since 2016 and since then I’ve had to register my company with the FDA and send them a list of all of my ingredients,” he said. “I know of two teenagers in Centralia that are already (since the ban) making vape juice in their kitchen and posting on Snapchat to sell it.”
While officials have said the ban on flavored vaping products is about keeping people safe, Kettle said feels it is actually doing the opposite.
Jay Fratt, the owner of Smokin’ J’s on Main St. in Centralia, expressed his opinion on the ban in Washington as well.
“This ‘Vape Ban’ is a horrendous policy decision made by the people that are supposed to take public health very seriously,” he said. “The Governor called for the Board of Health meeting under the guise of vape-related illness, but during the meeting, the Board of Health switched the impetuous to flavorings and ‘saving the children.’”
On an episode of his podcast, ‘The Conservative Hippie,’ Fratt said he is in favor of strict age regulations on vaping products and does not want people who are not trying to quit smoking cigarettes to touch nicotine.
“When people come into my shop and I ask them if they’re smokers and they say, ‘No,’ I say ‘Well why would (vape)? Don’t even touch this,’ ” he said on his podcast.
Fratt said he believes the ban to be unreasonable, noting that the products associated with vaping-related illnesses were cannabis-related projects containing THC.
“The e-juice industry had been around for a decade without incident,” he said. “Now people are going to be making (flavored vape juice) themselves or ordering it from outside of the community from sources without concern for quality (or) repercussions from the community.”
Fratt forecasted a dire future for vape shops in Washington State in the next few months of the flavored vape ban.
“Many small businesses will now close due to this decision,” he said.