ST. LOUIS — The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) new ban on JUUL brand vaping products has drawn praise and stoked fears in St. Louis. There are concerns that it’s a first step toward putting “vape” shops out of business and leading people to start smoking again.   

There are still a few stores advertising JUUL products around St. Louis.  Dorsett Vapor in Maryland Heights is not one of them.  Owner, Nelson Naeger, is pulling his already sparse JUUL selection from the shelves.  He worries this is just the beginning.  

Business was so good a few years ago he moved out of his smaller shop and into a larger, new one.  He’s concerned the FDA’s action could ultimately put his eight employees out of work and run him out of business.    

“I believe it to be like cutting the head off the snake by taking the larger player in the game out,” he said.   

The FDA announcement mentions only JUUL products by name and is very specific in regards to JUUL, saying: “…the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued marketing denial orders (MDOs) to JUUL Labs Inc. for all of their products currently marketed in the United States. As a result, the company must stop selling and distributing these products. In addition, those currently on the U.S. market must be removed, or risk enforcement action. The products include the JUUL device and four types of JUULpods: Virginia tobacco flavored pods at nicotine concentrations of 5.0% and 3.0% and menthol-flavored pods at nicotine concentrations of 5.0% and 3.0%. Retailers should contact JUUL with any questions about products in their inventory.”

The announcement also contains a broadly worded warning about vaping “products for which no application (for FDA approval) is pending.” That language worries Naeger.   

“Basically 99% of the stuff in the store today is going to be not approved,” he said.  

Small manufacturers cannot afford the legal costs of FDA approval, he said.   

The only companies to win approval so far had the backing of large tobacco companies, he said.  Under the FDA’s new model, the few approved vaping products would be sold at low-profit margins at gas stations and convenience stores, putting shops like his out of business.   

Senator Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois), agreed tobacco companies were now a driving force in the vaping industry.   

“Big tobacco and their new big vaping allies are determined to get their hooks into our children at an early age,” Durbin said.  

He praised the FDA’s action but said it didn’t go far enough. A statement from Ft. Zumwalt Schools in St. Charles County calls for the FDA JUUL ban “a welcome first step” but says “there is still far too much access to such products for teens.” 

Dorsett Vapor doesn’t sell to teens. Customer Rickey Zube said vaping helped him stop smoking much more harmful tobacco cigarettes.  

“I hope to god this doesn’t hurt the industry because I’ve found vaping is, in my opinion, a healthier alternative to smoking,” he said.

Zube also said there was a sense of community around the vaping business with new products and devices to test out, much like the craft beer industry.   

“What we’re worried about is that there’s not going to be options for people, and they’re going to be forced to go back to smoking the traditional cigarettes which are loaded with a lot of chemicals,” Naeger said.   

He feared that nearly everything on his shelves would be banned by Halloween.   

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