Days after Gov. Charlie Baker announced a state-wide, four-month ban on vaping products, Cambridge Public Health Department is starting to make the rounds to the city’s six vape shops and over 40 convenience stores to make sure the products are packed away and out of sight.
On Thursday, Boston Smoke Shop in Harvard Square got a visit not from CPHD but Somerville’s Department of Health and Human Services. The company, which also sells glass pieces, hookahs, tobacco and other smoking paraphernalia, was told to remove all its vape products from shelves and put up signs announcing the ban.
Yet, the cigarettes went untouched, a fact that employee Jeremy Hardy finds hypocritical.
“We know every day thousands of people die from lung cancer from cigarettes, but we’re turning a blind eye to it,” Hardy said. “We all know Big Tobacco is losing money, and our country has a habit of taking away our rights and then making us to pay to get them back.”
Hardy said if and when vaping products are returned to shelves, he believes it’ll be at a much higher price due to tax hikes.
But what he and other employees of these shops are most worried about is job security.
Hardy said vape sales account for a “huge chunk of the revenue” at Boston Smoke Shop. He estimated 40-45 percent of total sales.
“I have no idea what the company is going to do,” said Hardy. “I’m worried about losing my job. I have a child to support, and I need to make a living.”
Boston Smoke Shop is one of the biggest chains in the Boston area with over 20 shops. But despite that cushion and the continuing sales of other products unrelated to vaping, the chain immediately shut down several storefronts upon the announcement of the ban, Hardy said.
The company’s website boasts 21 storefronts, but under the current locations section, just nine are listed.
“We had three just on Newbury Street," he said. "Business was alright. We were doing good. But now we’re struggling to pay bills and people are going to be nervous about job security.
“Is our business going to be able to pay to get through the ban,” he asked.
The other vape shops in Cambridge, besides Boston Smoke Shop at 54 JFK St., include: Bluemoon Smoke Shop (with three locations at 1704 Massachusetts Ave., 1295 Cambridge St. and 896 Massachusetts Ave.); City Smoke Shop at 49 Brattle St.; and The Smoke Shop at 1199 Cambridge St.)
There are also more than 40 retail stores that Cambridge Public Health Department is planning to visit on Friday and Monday as part of the City Tobacco Initiative to ensure these businesses are in compliance with the temporary ban.
The Six City Tobacco Initiative is funded by Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop to enforce local tobacco laws in these communities, the department said. The six vape shops were formally notified on Thursday, Sept. 26, of the ban and on Friday, Sept. 27, and Monday, Sept. 30, staff from the Cambridge Public Health Department and the city’s Inspectional Services Department will be assisting with compliance visits.
“Until we know more about what is causing severe lung illness in people who vape, we urge teens and adults to avoid using e-cigarettes and other vaping products,” said Claude Jacob, chief public health officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department.
As of Friday, Sept. 27, the CDC had confirmed over 800 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses across 46 states, as well as 13 deaths.
Requests for comment from managers or owners at Bluemoon Smoke Shop, City Smoke Shop and Cambridge Smoke Shop have yet to be returned as of publication time.