Brittany O'Boyle, an employee at FIX Vapor on Main Street, enjoys a mid-day vapor session. (Daniel Archuleta)

CITYWIDE – Santa Monica’s e-cigarette ordinance has been on the books for two months, but vape stores are flourishing.

One vape store, established before the ordinance, says business continues to grow, and another – the third in the city – opened after the ordinance went into effect.

The battery-powered vaporizers, which deliver a form of nicotine and can mimic the feel of traditional cigarettes, are being marketed as a healthier, less difficult way to kick the tobacco habit.

In September, City Council voted unanimously to treat e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco cigarettes, which are heavily regulated in the city.

Cigarettes are banned near doorways, in the parks, on the beach, on the Third Street Promenade, and, of course, in restaurants and bars.

Before the ordinance went into effect, in mid-November, vaping was allowed anywhere in the city.

The Santa Monica Police Department doesn’t keep track of citations issued specifically for vaping because vaping is treated exactly like smoking in the Municipal Code.

Vapor Delight, one of the two vape shops in Santa Monica that existed prior to the ordinance, is still seeing steady growth, said the shop’s manager, Justin Renken.

“I don’t really want to disclose our metrics to just anyone who calls us,” Renken said, “but at the same time I can tell you that our store has been growing steadily since we opened and we haven’t seen a slow-down in growth since the legislation has passed.”

Renken said that the ordinance actually helped unify Santa Monica’s vaping community.

“I don’t see a direct correlation between the legislation and consumption but what I do see is, I see a stronger loyalty among our core customers where we see people over and over a lot more often,” he said. “Before the regulations we were seeing a lot of more randomized activity coming in. Now, it’s a bit more patterned.”

He’s not heard any of his customers complain of police hassling them to stop vaping around the city.

“But then again, our customer base is quite respectful, so even before legislation they’re not the kind of people blowing clouds in people’s faces,” Renken said. “Those people do exist, but we’re more of your friendly neighborhood shop full of people who are respectable, intelligent, and just want to have fun vaping.”

The ordinance hasn’t stopped the influx of new business either. Vape Bazaar, which is located on Santa Monica Boulevard near Yale Street, has been open for about a month, according to an employee who answered the phone.

“This isn’t my shop, I’m an employee, but I’ll tell you from my knowledge, truthfully, vaping is vaping and people are going to want to quit smoking no matter what,” he said. “People are going to want to look for that healthier alternative no matter what. Regardless of what the city has to say in regards to vaping and it being, quote, unquote, like cigarettes, it’s just truthfully not the case and I think the people know that. Regardless of the ordinance that the city has put into place, people are going to want to shop.”

The employee declined to give identification but promised to pass the Daily Press’ information onto Vape Bazaar’s owners, noting that they probably wouldn’t want to speak with the press. The Daily Press left a phone number but did not hear back from the owners by press time.

City Hall’s smoking ordinance bans smoking in workplaces and the vaping ordinance does too, with two exceptions: The two shops that were opened before the ordinance went into effect.

Vapor Delight, which is located on Lincoln Boulevard near Pico Boulevard, is one of them. Customers there can try out the product in the stores.

Vape Bazaar, because it opened after the ordinance went into effect, is not supposed to allow people to vape in the shop but the employee said that people do vape in the store.

Renken, over at Vapor Delight, said he’s been pleased with the ordinance thus far.

“It’s something that I believe in some way is inevitable,” he said. “You can’t really have a wild west industry for very long. We’re quite satisfied with the results of the legislation and we don’t feel that the legislators are being too aggressive with our store or our industry.”

dave@www.smdp.com

 

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