‘More people die from cigarettes than vaping.’ Local shops blame black market for illnesses

Vaping and education don’t mix, Drug Free Manatee says

Alison Bergmann, of Drug Free Manatee, explains the harmful effects of nicotine and e-cigarettes.
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Alison Bergmann, of Drug Free Manatee, explains the harmful effects of nicotine and e-cigarettes.

Local vaping shopkeepers are standing by their products after the Centers for Disease Control this week said vaping has potentially caused 450 people in 33 states to fall sick with vaping associated pulmonary injury, and six to die.

Products sold in local vaping stores are safe. Products bought on the black market are not, several shopkeepers told the Bradenton Herald.

“Kids buy stuff they shouldn’t, whether it’s made in China or in someone’s kitchen,” said Dillon Grilley of City of Vapors Vape Store & Smoke Shop, 5780 Manatee Ave. W.

Grilley was referring to black market or counterfeit cartridges, also known as “carts,” used in vaping devices.

“Regulation is welcome, in my opinion, but prohibition, is not. It’s pretty clear-cut. Please bring us the regulation. Vaping is nowhere near as harmful as tobacco ever was,” Grilley said.

Donovon Kellman, store manager at Mad Vapor West, 3214 Manatee Ave. W., had a similar take on the issue.

Some are buying fake THC cartridges. THC is the active ingredient in cannabis. The cartridges may be filled with pesticides or other harmful substances, Kellman said.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the vaping industry,” Kellman said. “The whole truth behind it is that the fake carts are filled with stuff that we don’t know what it is.”

Austin Umberger, manager of Great Vape! Bradenton, 3549 53rd Ave. W., agreed that vape shops have been unfairly given a blackeye.

Any substances causing health-related issues are coming from outside the regulated supply chain, Umberger said.

“I think a lot of the minors and kids that don’t have a medical card are finding ways on Instagram, or Facebook or through friends for getting cartridges for a cheaper price. They don’t really know what’s in it, which is causing a lot of issues,” Umberger said.

Hassan Lalani, owner of 941 Vape & Smoke, 4220 59th St. W., said he has been selling products since 2010. Nobody died from vaping in 2010, he said, referring to the more recent appearance of black market products that may be causing problems.

“More people die from cigarettes than vaping,” Lalani said.

During a briefing on September 11, 2019, President Donald Trump said his administration will propose banning thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes to combat a surge in underage vaping.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that the federal government will move to ban flavors used in e-cigarettes, which have been blamed for making vaping more attractive to children.

“We can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t have our youth be so affected,” Trump said.

Before the government cracks down more on vaping, it should worry about gun violence first, Lalani said.

The Botany Bay demonstrates what the Juul e-cigarette is and why it has recently become so popular.

All of the vaping stores surveyed by the Herald had signs posted saying that customers must be 18 or older and have proof of their age.

“If kids come in, they are turned away,” Kellman said.

At City of Vapors, Grilley said under-age customers learn quickly not to bother.

“They learn very well that our company doesn’t put up with it. We ask for your ID every time they come in,” Grilley


The Manatee County School District disciplined more than 340 students for possessing or using an e-cigarette during the 2018-19 school year, an increase of more than 15 percent over the previous school year, the Herald reported earlier this year.

Given the attractiveness of vaping to students, state Rep. Jackie Toledo, of Tampa called a press conference at Tampa General Hospital on Thursday to announce that she plans to introduce a bill raising the age for buying vaping and tobacco products in Florida from 18 to 21.

The American Medical Association has said that the use of e-cigarettes and vaping is an urgent public health epidemic that must be addressed.