Lexington vapor company facing closure, layoffs if flavoring ban becomes reality

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A Lexington company that was built from the ground up is facing a grim future following President Trump’s announcement towards e-cigarettes on Wednesday.

Vapor Stockroom and 723 Vapor are well known in the vaping community.

The company started in a kitchen and opened the doors into a new idea in 2014. The multi-million dollar company is one of the largest flavor manufacturers in the state and provides flavoring for all five of their shops and others.

They employ 36 people ranging from professionals in their factory to marketing employees.

However all of the work could come to an end within six weeks because of an announcement Wednesday from the Oval Office.

The surprise White House announcement could remake the multibillion-dollar vaping industry, which has been driven by sales of flavored nicotine formulas such as "grape slushie" and "strawberry cotton candy."

The Food and Drug Administration will develop guidelines to remove from the market all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters during an Oval Office appearance with the president, first lady Melania Trump and the acting FDA commissioner, Ned Sharpless.

Trump's first public comments on vaping come as health authorities investigate hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.

The company says if this proposal sees the light of day they will be closing shop up in as little as six weeks.

When WKYT’s Nick Oliver spoke to the company Wednesday they were already preparing for the dim future. The company says they have even sold vehicles ahead of the decision.

They say there is more to the story many don’t see. They say the vaping community has become the excuse for political movements in Washington.

Their fear now sits with millions that turned to flavoring – they believe the vaping community are now likely to turn back to cigarettes.

The company says they also believe many people are becoming sick because of THC being abused and not made correctly, leading to many becoming sick. They believe uneducated lawmakers and “the national media” have driven a narrative that has created a stir that will in turn hurt more than it can help.

They say since stories about sick teens have been making headlines, their sales have dropped by 70%. Many calling their office askign if their product will "make me sick". Though they say it is inappropriate for teens to vape, they say the majority are adults that abide by laws.

In the national vaping market, a ban on flavors would be a huge blow to companies like San Francisco-based Juul, which sells mint, fruit and dessert flavored-nicotine pods.

The Vapor Technology Association said in a statement the flavor ban would force smokers "to choose between smoking again ... or finding what they want and need on the black market." The group represents vaping manufacturers, retailers and distributors.

Locally, the experts say mom and pop shops will close rapidly leaving hundreds of thousands jobless. Lexington and Louisville remain as the lead in 'vape shops' with dozens in each city.