Former smokers, active military on mind of Tampa vape shop owner after vote cracking down on laws

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to pass an ordinance that bans county businesses from selling vaping products to anyone under 21.

The measure also bans anyone under 21 from using or possessing vape devices or products.

A local vape store owner is worried about former cigarette smokers.

“They can legally go down the street at a convenience store, drug store and buy cigarettes. But they can’t do something that’s 95 percent safer,” said Mike Cherup, owner of South Tampa Vape.

He also believes the ordinance is ridiculous when it comes to active military, especially since his store is located 5 minutes away from MacDill Air Force Base.

“They should have exempted active duty military. I’m sorry – if someone’s willing to die for my country they should be able to use a product that is safer than cigarettes,” he said.

Cherup explained to 8 On Your Side that his business is committed to keeping vaping devices out of the hands of high schoolers.

According to data from the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida, nearly 25 percent of Florida high school students reported they used vaping devices in 2018. That’s a 58 percent increase compared to 2017.

South Tampa Vape checks customer IDs and has refused sales to parents who are buying for kids.

Even so, Cherup knows firsthand that these products are accessible.

“I went online and ordered off of Instagram, Juul pods. No ID check on the order, no ID check when it was delivered by the post office,” he explained.

Along with the Florida Smoke-Free Association, this local business owner has spoken with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office about what they believe should go on statewide.

The vice president of that association, Nick Orlando, was dropping off posters for a rally in Washington D.C. when 8 On Your Side visited the vape shop.

Orlando echoed the sentiments of some of the commissioners, that the age to purchase cigarettes in Florida should also be increased to 21.

“I only wish that big tobacco was held to those same standards. Because right now we’re losing 1,300 individuals a day, 480,000 a year to big tobacco, combustible tobacco. But we’re choosing to not really address that issue at this point in time,” he said.

That will be discussed during the2020 legislative session, which convenes in Tallahassee on Jan. 14.

Cherup doesn’t believe business will be too interrupted at his store, but worries about other bans that could come from the federal government.

“We’re fighting for our lives with not only this, the national flavor ban that President Trump announced on Sept. 11. So we’re looking at this and we’re kind of…Where do we go from here?” he asked.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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