As Predicted, the Vape Ban is Destroying Businesses

Sad news this week for one of our favorite online vape product retailers, VPM.

On Monday VPM announced that they will be closing their doors due to the impending ban on vape products. If you haven’t kept up with the news, the short version is, a new bill was passed which lumps vape products in with the very vague “e-cigarette” category, and as a result some pretty major restrictions are being put on getting access to those products via online retailers.

VPM knows that it is about to become very difficult to legally sell their products, and they have no choice but to shut down their business as a result. VPM has been in business for over 6 years now and has made a name for themselves as a quality and trustworthy online retailer selling some of the best vape products out there.

Why can’t they just sell legally and stay in business?

It’s not that they can’t sell legally — it’s that it’s really hard to prove it.

The bill was created to prevent children from being able to order e-cigarettes online. Sounds benign enough. Except where this gets tricky is that now it’s up to the online retailers to figure out a way to verify their customers’ ages upon purchase. And that’s not as simple as it may seem.

When you buy cigarettes at the store, the cashier checks your ID for your age and also compares your photo to your face right in front of them. Verifying a buyer’s age online, however, is much more involved. A child can easily access their parents’ valid ID with a valid birth year, and they could even answer some identity verification questions, if in theory the retailer was to ask for the buyer’s maiden name, birth city, elementary school, etc. Basically the only way I can think to truly verify that the person actually placing the order is of age would be to match their face to their ID. So, what? Start a live video chat for every purchase?

The vape ban causes problems for shipping companies, too

But that’s not where the hurdles stop. Let’s say retailers could figure out a way to guarantee they aren’t selling to minors. Now the order has been placed and it’s on its way. But what happens at delivery?

When you buy cigarettes at the store, after your ID is checked and you pay, the clerk hands you your stuff and you leave. He knows the products are literally in your of-age hands. (Nevermind that you could easily give it to minors later…)

When you order products online, however, they usually get left on your doorstep. Where your kids can get them. Where the neighbor’s kids can steal them for that matter. Who knows in whose hands they’ll end up?

Things brings to mind solutions like requiring a signature, but I can also see how that would end up costing shipping companies way more in employee hours. Imagine the time wasted for every delivery attempt when the person isn’t home. Plus, again, it would require more than just a signature here. The delivery person would need to check the person’s ID for a valid birth year and photo match. Not a huge deal but I can also see how that’s not what USPS signed up for.

So while there’s some room for ingenuity among online vape retailers to come up with ways to prove legal sales, the big shipping companies aren’t having it. To them, the idea of working around this vape ban isn’t worth the hassle. And what good is it for an online retailer to make sales, only to not be allowed to ship their products using the largest national shipping companies in the US? (We’re looking at you, USPS, UPS, and FedEx.)

The future of the vape business

Unfortunately, for the time being, there is just no way around this vape ban. Between restrictions on sales and restrictions on shipping, there’s a ticking clock for vape businesses. VPM was the first we’ve seen to officially announce their closing, which is set for March 27, 2021.

They urge their customers to stock up on vape supplies now, while you still can. Stocking up now can also help support this small business whose owner, Nathan, and employees are about to be out of a job. VPM has been one of our favorite retailers to support for their quality products and excellent customer service, and we are truly bummed to see them go.

We hope that some day they will come back (which they did elude to in their announcement.) We just don’t know when. No one does.

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