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E-cigarettes products are mainly available online or in dedicated "vape" storefronts. They are also available at grocery stores, conventional retailers, mass retailers, tobacco retailers, convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores, and shopping malls. A vape shop offers a range of e-cigarette products. The majority of vape shops do not sell e-cigarette products that are from "Big Tobacco" companies. Vape shops can offer a greater selection of e-cigarettes than conventional retailers. While vape shops offer mostly reusable e-cigarettes, cig-a-likes are mostly available at convenience stores.
Vape shops typically offer a diverse selection of e-liquids. Vape shops can buy e-liquids containing 100 mg/mL and dilute them according to the patron's preference. Flavors such as chocolate, caramel, mint, menthol, coffee, cherry, and apple can be added to the liquid nicotine. Vape shops may carry vaping magazines and may offer accessories such as clothing, bags and wooden cases for the e-liquid. Vape shops host music concerts at night. Vape shops are increasing in popularity. Many e-cigarette companies have proposed to retailers the idea to convert part of their current location into a mini vape shop.
Vape shops are mainly small, independent businesses. Vape shops are usually interested in a location between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet. They vary in design and product selection. Some look like bars. Some have lounges where people can drink a beverage as they vape. Some vape shops have a vape bar where patrons can test out different e-liquids and socialize. Vape shop customers visit their local vape shop for personalized e-cigarette advice. Vape shop retail workers may show potential customers how to use different e-cigarettes and how to fill the devices with e-liquid. A "vapologist" may give advise to potential customers to choosing an e-liquid. Patrons are permitted to vape in most vape shops. "Cloud-chasing", the activity of blowing the largest clouds of vapor, is becoming a routine event at some vape shops.
Some vape shop owners choose not to sell vaping products to minors. Vapor store owners use the internet to get information e-cigarettes. Vape shop owners generally believe vaping is a habit. It has been reported that many vape shop owners do not know all of the substances contained in e-liquids.
In 2013, online search engine searches on vape shops surpassed searches on e-cigarettes. The markup of e-cigarettes as high as 200–400% may play a role in the prevalence of vape shops. In 2014, the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association estimated that there were 35,000 vape shops in the US, more than triple the number a year earlier. There are numerous vape shops in Canada. In 2015, there were about 8,000 vape shops in the UK. In December 2015, there were 2,400 vape shops in France, 400 fewer than in March of the same year. Industry organization Fivape said the reduction was due to consolidation, not to reduced demand.
Effective from 8 August 2016, under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, a vape shop that mixes or prepares e-liquids, or makes or modifies any kind of e-cigarettes, is regulated as a tobacco product manufacturer. Vape shops cannot hand out free samples to patrons or sell to individuals under 18 years of age. Retailers are required to ask for photo ID from patrons who look to be under 27 years of age.
In May 2016 the FDA used its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to deem e-cigarette devices and e-liquids to be tobacco products, which meant it intended to regulate the marketing, labelling, and manufacture of devices and liquids; vape shops that mix e-liquids or make or modify devices were considered manufacturing sites that needed to register with FDA and comply with good manufacturing practice regulation. Small vape shop businesses are concerned about the FDA regulations. Vape shop owners in the US are concerned about the costs of adhering to the proposed FDA regulations. Some vape shop owners believe the proposed FDA rules might put them out of business. On 5 May 2016, the FDA announced that all tobacco products will be regulated, including e-cigarettes, which require vape shops to register as tobacco companies. The FDA acknowledged that many vape shops will go out of business, but they also state many will stay open, despite hefty costs. Part of the new law requires products to state nicotine is addictive. Some vape shop owners in the US believe a ban on public vaping might put some vape shops out of business because taste-testing would be prohibited.
The revised Tobacco Products Directive European legislation will regulate the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes. Small business owners are concerned that the new regulation will make e-cigarettes less interesting to consumers and that this means a downturn of their business. In late November 2015, Bill 44 was passed by the National Assembly, which regulates e-cigarettes as tobacco products. It bans using e-cigarettes in vape shops, bans indoor displays and advertising, and bans sales on their websites.
Vape trade shows have an array of product vendors, seminars, social interactions with other vapers, parties, gifts, vaping contests, and other activities. By 2015, the number of vaping trade show organizations arranging vape trade shows had grown to 41. This includes 90 trade shows, with 6 set for 2016 in 8 countries. Vape shows were organized in 26 US states. They ranged from smaller local shows to large shows jumping around among cities. Most vape show organizations are in the US. Others are in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Vape shows are free to attend or have an entrance fee that cost from $10 to $25. In 2014, vaping contests at vape trade shows such as cloud-chasing were rare. By 2015, close to 50% of vaping trade show organizations promoted contests such as cloud-chasing. Vaping at the shows is permitted. In July 2015, a New Jersey vape trade show was fined for breaching the state’s 2010 indoor smoke-free law, which bans vaping indoors. Vape trade shows are increasing in popularity and regularity.
Vape shows include VapeBash, VapeCon, VapeXpo Vapestock, Vape-a-Palooza, Vapetoberfest, Vapor Gras, and Canada Vape Expo. Vape Fest, which started in 2010, is an annual vape show hosted by different cities across the US. Vape Summit started in 2013. Vapor World Expo began in 2014 at Rosemont, Illinois. In May 2015 at Vape Summit 3 in Las Vegas, there was a cloud-chasing competition. In May 2016 Vape Summit was held in Paris, France. The Vape Expo China, which started in 2015, is an annual vape show held in different cities in China. Vape shop owners, agents, distributors, and vapers attend the trade show.
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