A recent report has named Virginia Beach the best city in the United States for vaping.
According to a study conducted by R Street, a D.C.-based public policy research organization, Virginia Beach’s vape regulations are the most favorable to partakers.
The city received a score of 97, which translates to an A+ ‘Vapescore,’ according to the study.
“Virginia Beach was the only city to score above the base score of 95,” wrote the study’s authors Cameron Smith and Dan Semelsberger. “Across the board, the city embraces policies conducive to tobacco harm reduction.”
Several factors were considered when awarding the scores, including e-cigarette tax regulations, environmental prohibitions, retail license opportunities, and access to accurate public health information about vaping.
One reason vaping continues to thrive in Virginia Beach dates back to a 2010 State Supreme Court ruling that stated e-cigarettes do not fall under the category of tobacco products.
“Thanks to that decision, the state explicitly acknowledges nicotine-vapor products and cigarettes as distinct products,” explained the authors.
But what do the local vape enthusiasts think?
“I’m not surprised by Virginia Beach’s ranking,” said Alex Batista, owner of Vape Xotix. “When I started my business about three years ago there were about three vape shops here. Now there are more than 100 [statewide]. The growth has been exponential.”
Batista, who used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day before switching to vaping, described the unique vaping scene in Virginia Beach, and compared the local vaping community to stricter states.
“People don’t understand that vaping is a subculture with a variety of characters. Here in Virginia Beach, 99 percent of our customers are part of the military,” he said. “Places like California have strengthened regulations and increased vape taxes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see vapers moving out here because it’s more lax.”
California law excludes sale of e-cigarette products to anyone under the age of 21. Like several states, California does not allow vaping where smoking is prohibited.
Allison Whetzel, an employee at Vape Xotix, agreed and described the current vaping climate in Virginia.
“I went back to California not too long ago. I used to go to a lot of different shops, but eight or nine of them had been shut down or had moved out of state,” she said. “A lot of my 19- and 20-year-old friends lost their jobs at vape shops.”
While Virginia Beach enjoys a strong culture and many vaping freedoms, Allusive Cloud Factory owner Kyle Kleinknight is cautious about the future of vaping.
“This city has a very good vape community and we really look out for the consumer,” he said. “But I think it’s too soon to tell what the market will do in the next few years. The market may hit a standstill if regulations increase further.”
The original R Street study ended with the same cautious outlook. Though the study delivered good news to vapers in the city of Virginia Beach, the authors predicted wavering acceptance from public entities, something the lowest scoring cities, including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Seattle, are already experiencing.
“Our first Vapescore analysis reveals a rapidly developing policy area rife with misinformation and heavily motivated by a political desire to replace declining cigarette revenues,” the study said. “Rather than arbitrarily and unscientifically drawing the conclusion that cigarettes and vapor products are equivalent, public officials should consider policies treat vapor products proportionally to their health impacts.”
Pohl may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org