Vaping products are essential and businesses that sell them should be allowed to reopen during the statewide COVID-19 shutdown, a Cleona businessman said Sunday.

“For years, we’ve been switching people over from deadly cigarettes to a safer product,” John Dolan, owner of Smooth Vape at 453 W. Penn Ave., said. But, without access to vaping products, he said, “a large majority of them are turning back to cigarette smoking.”

Cigarettes kill 480,000 people per year, Dolan said, while no one has died from using legally manufactured ejuice.

That makes their business life-sustaining, said Dolan, who also owns vape shops in Manheim and Harrisburg.

“All these people now don’t have anywhere to go for their vape projects,” he said. “Sure, they can go to convenience stores, but they sell products made in China and other countries. Frankly, it’s disgusting.”

Many of the products are available on the internet — in fact, Dolan said he built his own online store in three days after the shutdown — but he said many people, especially those over 50, are less likely to place orders online.

“They’re going to pull the plug on online orders of vaping products at some point,” he noted. “And I think they should. But not now.”

Without access to safe vaping products, Dolan said, “people are going to switch back to cigarettes. I’ve spoken to people who’ve switched back.”

Dolan said he tried curbside pickup for his customers, but local police came and shut him down after two days.

“They said I’m nonessential,” he said. “They said it’s only for food.”

But Dolan said he “fully complied with CDC procedures. … All my people had masks, they had gloves, they were cleaning everything with sanitizers. They wouldn’t go out to a car unless they had their gloves and masks on.”

If he were allowed to reopen, he said, he would gladly limit customers to one in the store at a time, if that’s what was required.

“I would do whatever I needed to do to get products to the people who need them,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, he’s seen beer distributors, ice cream parlors, and even a car audio installation business that have been allowed to stay open.

“It doesn’t add up,” he said. “They say I’m not essential. But it’s nicotine. It’s one of the most addictive substances around.”

Dolan is using social media to bolster support for reopening his and other businesses like it. On the Smooth Vape Facebook page, he said he spoke to state Rep. Russ Diamond, who is “is totally on our side about being essential.” Diamond, who represents the 102nd state legislative district, told Dolan to “create a public outcry” to get vape shops listed as essential by state government, Dolan said.

The representative is “on the side of vapers,” Dolan asserted.

Diamond, contacted later Sunday, said “that is not what I told him.”

“What I told him was that EVERY business is essential to the people who work there, and that a central bureaucrat arbitrarily deciding which individual businesses can conduct commerce safely, and which ones can’t, is a ridiculous notion,” Diamond explained in an email.

Diamond is preparing legislation that would allow all businesses to reopen if they agree to comply with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

“That is the same advice I’ve given hundreds of individual business owners over the last two weeks — band together with other like businesses and make your voice heard,” Diamond said in the email. “Restaurants, cabinet manufacturers, builders, concrete guys, you name it, it’s what I’ve told everyone.”

However, Diamond said, he doesn’t believe vape shops are more important “than any other enterprise. They are ALL important to the people they create an income for.”


Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.