Vape Expo NJ – No Vaping Allowed?
A dense fog of fruity-smelling smoke hangs in the air. The hall is filled with row after row of tables and elaborate displays of juices, tanks, mods, atomizers, batteries, wick and wire, and even t-shirts and caps. Anyone who has attended the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) convention, held every year in various bustling cities, would find this scenario very familiar.
The Vape Industry holds mega-events several times a year, the biggest being the ECC Vape Convention, Vape Expo, Chicago Vape Convention, and—the granddaddy of them all—Vape Summit. These events are highly successful, well-planned, and loads of fun. At least that’s what I had heard before I actually attended one.
Open to retailers, vendors, wholesale distributors, and, of course, the public, a vape convention is a great way to learn more about electronic cigarettes and the industry. There are speakers who discuss and present the latest about vaping, and room for sponsor booths where you can buy quality vaping products, hardware, e-liquids, and other accessories. Various contests and giveaways are scheduled and for a nominal entrance fee, consumers usually walk out with a bag full of swag.
Billed as the biggest vaping event to hit the Garden State, Vape Expo NJ was held at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, from July 17-19, 2015. This sprawling 130,000-sq.ft pavilion drew in roughly 1,200- 2,000 vendors and electronic cigarette enthusiasts from all over the country throughout the weekend.
On the first official day of the event, there were signs all over the building stating the following:
“The Edison board of health has forced vaping to be done Saturday and Sunday in an adjacent enclosed pavilion off the show floor. Please keep all vaping in that pavilion. This event is not open to non-vapers. Thank you, VENJ Staff.”
Unlike many others, these signs didn’t deter me in the least; being an avid cigar smoker, I’m used to strict policies and designated smoking areas. I planned to just obey the law and vape at said adjacent pavilion—which turned out to be at the back exit, next to several rows of dumpsters!
I arrived to a very crowded and very smoky hall. Damn, I thought. People are ignoring the signs. This can’t be good!
There was a giant stage, a DJ stand, pole dancers, and neon lights flashing from wall to wall. It was like a walking into a nightclub from the 80’s.
As I found out about an hour later after rounding the many tables with a bag full of yummy juice and wading through the thick candy smoke, a state senator, backed by a gang of health officials, was issuing $250 fines for people who vaped indoors. At this point, some vendors and patrons started to pack up and leave. The expo hall manager, the event promoters, and nearly 70 sellers were fined about $50,000 for violating the state’s indoor smoke-free air law. That’s not counting the paying customers also slapped with fines.
For those of you not familiar with this law, in 2010, New Jersey was the first state in the country to ban vaping in public by expanding a law barring indoor smoking at restaurants, bars, and other public places to include e-cigarettes.
So how did the event promoters, knowing this law, think they could pull off this event? The official website read as follows:
“THIS IS A PRIVATE EVENT FOR VAPERS ONLY! NO SMOKING PLEASE!
MEMBERSHIP IS INCLUDED WITH YOUR ENTRY TICKET PURCHASE
*** VAPING WILL BE ALLOWED INSIDE THE ADJACENT PAVILION
Vape Expo NJ is a private social group for vapers 19+. Valid ID is required for entry. All membership info will be detailed under the ATTEND link. Tickets will be available to purchase online or at the door each day of the event.”
Apparently, there was some loophole in the contract, or the promoters read it wrong. Either way, the event became a nightmare of epic proportions.
By Saturday’s end, the event planner said he intended to challenge the fines, arguing that health officials were mistakenly applying the law to what is a private building he had leased out for the three-day show.
Shortly after I departed, an announcement was made that vaping was once again allowed in the pavilion!
And this is just the beginning, folks. Even though NJ Vape Expo may have won the battle, they are still very much in the midst of a war. This is just more fodder for the government to over-regulate another thriving industry to death. Wrongfully likened to traditional cigarettes, vaping has joined the persecuted ranks of cigar and pipe tobaccos.
I’m starting to envision a point in the near future where I can buy a bag of weed at my local Walmart, but I’ll have to risk my freedom to find a sleazy dealer selling freakin’ E-juice.
Terror is on the rise, the economy sucks, the whole damn world is falling apart, and our government is worried about us blowing stupid clouds of Tootsie Roll flavored steam.