One of the reasons I started this site was because of the events that took place at Vape Expo NJ on July 17th, 18th, and 19th. I personally attended the expo on the 18th/19th and cannot attest to Friday’s events.
I arrived at the event early, technically during the B2B portion Saturday morning. I was already aware Satrday morning that there were “issues” after Friday that led to a ban of vaping indoors at the convention center.
When I walked in, I could easily see that there were people who weren’t going to let the vaping ban bother them. I saw a few vendors and people that I know from past dealings (either through Good Guy Vapes or from passing through various vaping related events). I talked to a few and could easily see that people were already incredibly upset. Many vendors chose to leave the event early (most likely resulting in a loss of business that could have been achieved throughout the weekend) and the vendors that did stay were anywhere from somewhat upset to extremely livid.
As the day rolled on I began to see various people walking through the event that ID’d themselves as Board of Health officials for Edison. They were warning many different vendors and attendees that they were (1) not allowed to vape indoors (2) testing/sampling could be done indoors but at 0 nicotine levels (3) testing/sampling wasn’t allowed at all (4) warn that continued sampling and indoor vaping would result in fines (5)actually fine multiple attendees and vendors. It went in this roller coaster for about 3-4 hours easily.
First, let me just say this. I understand that the laws in NJ prohibit vaping indoors under the amendment P.L. 2009, c.182. This amendment was passed in 2010 and every shop carrying vaping products do (or should) know this amendment inside and out. Many shops ignore this rule, as well as various bars around the state. Roughly by my estimate and experience, 1 bar will ask kindly that vaping devices are not used inside out of every 15-20. Common sense has shown many of the people running establishments that the amendment is poorly written and should not classify a tobacco product and a vaping product in the same way.
That being said, the event was held under the guise of a private event and membership to skirt the Clean Air Act amendment. This move has been called everything from legally questionable to complete nonsense with no legal basis post event. The Board of Health allegedly gave the sign off on the event with the understanding (again allegedly in writing) that vaping will be taking place inside the convention center. I can say I never saw any specific document stating this but that has been the claim by the event organizers from the start.
As the day went on, I was able to meet and talk to a long time vaping advocate, hardware reviewer, basically someone who has been in the vaping scene for quite some time, Phil Busardo. Phil runs a site called TasteYourJuice.com and is very well known for his in-depth discussions and reviews over the years. We mostly discussed the events of the day previously and what has happened on Saturday that we both witnessed. At the bottom of this post I linked to his take on the weekend, which contains a two-part video and more. Senator Vitale (D-NJ) even showed up. Why he was there is only my guess. Supposedly it was because he received a call from the head of GASP (another anti-smoking advocacy group), who i can only describe as an arrogant manipulative witch. Effective at her job yes, but a cunt nonetheless. Multiple phone complaints were lodged to the Edison Board of Health and I heard claims of underage children in attendance, pregnant women (I believe I did see one or two there), dogs in the building, and multiple other complaints. Most of that is completely untrue (the pregnant women I can verify with a certain level of accuracy). I also assume it is because he (Senator Vitale) is a giant blowhard who has no problem telling everyone he was a co-sponsor of the Clean Air Act amendment and wants to show how much of an asshole he really is. Why would he come by in all honesty? It’s not so he can help shutdown the event, but to give him talking points later on the radio about how against vaping he actually is. You can see that clip here. Everyone I talked to described the senator as seriously misinformed or lied to in regards to what vaping is, what is in eliquids, and what harm (or lack there of they do). Seriously, you’re a senator. Do your job and don’t get involved in board of health/legal matters. There’s a reason why our government is setup in a specific way and you’re crossing that line. And by do your job, I mean stop treating vapers (also voting citizens) like smokers. We are not smokers, at least anymore.
Throughout the event, many of the vendors came on the stage to discuss why we need to support the NJ pro vaping advocacy group (the NJVRC). The New Jersey Vapor Retailer’s Coalition had a small booth just to the left of the stage. Up until this weekend, most people haven’t even heard of them, and a smaller number of shops in NJ were registered members. This, changed drastically that weekend. There were a large number of donations made, and the NJVRC, in my opinion, is going to be really stepping up their game after the events of the expo. Jen Eldridge from Phat Panda Vapor stood on stage and went on an amazing speech about how every single person and vendor in the expo needed to come to the NJVRC booth. I’ve known Jen for quite a while now and can happily say she was awesome on stage. Strong, eloquent, with a bit (a lot) of Jersey attitude. She’s the type of person the NJVRC wants and needs on their side, along with every other vaper in NJ. Personally, if every vaping related company based in NJ is not a member of the NJVRC group, they might as well pack up their shop and go back to what they were doing before. They’ll most likely be out of business within a year if they do not do their part to support changing the way vaping is seen by law in NJ.
By the end of Saturday, you could see the frustration in everyone’s faces. Vendors are basically being told not to do business, attendees are being told not to vape. At a vaping event. Where everyone is there to vape and try out new products they might have never heard of before. An NJ.com article posted on July 19th also described some of the events (with many grammatical errors and inaccuracies) created some extra visibility around the event as well.
By the time Sunday rolled around, it seemed the issues with the Board of Health had died down at least visibly. Sunday seemed calm for the most part. People were vaping inside again, Board of Health officials were nowhere in sight. But at approximately 4 PM Sunday Board of Health officials requested that the event be closed off to any more attendees trying to enter the expo. The event was scheduled to 8 PM that day. Signs went up around the outside of the entrances and the only people allowed back in if they left had to have a vendor pass. At least the cloud competition was allowed to happen, even with the fan systems within the building not being fully turned off.
After the event, I’ve had some time to think about and what took place, why events unfolded the way they did, and gauge my own feelings regarding the expo. In many ways I’m extremely saddened about how the expo took place. It gave yet another black eye to the already negative view of NJ to many out of state visitors and the residents of NJ. I felt lied to in many ways. I felt that the event was very poorly organized and every step taken by the organizers of the event (Andy Balough and Don Miller) either made things worse or made the attendees feel like they were part of a bait and switch event. I’m angry that the first major vaping convention in NJ ended in such anger, bitterness, and frustration by the vendors and the attendees. However, I’m happy that I was able to goto an event in my own state (even though it will be a long time before another one happens here, if ever). I’m excited that I was able to meet many people throughout the industry and spend time discussing the industry itself, their personal views, and get to know many people I’ve only either heard of or talked to through Facebook posts.
Overall, as badly organized as the event was, I’m happy there’s a much larger public face on vaping in NJ, and that the laws regarding vaping are more publicly seen as badly written and in need of change. I felt so strongly about this event and the advocacy that needs to be in place in NJ that I wrote this long review of the expo and created a website to help share the different issues that happen here in NJ and in other states. Vape on my friends.
PBusardo’s post event discussion
NJVRC – New Jersey Vapor Retailer’s Coalition
CASAA – The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association
SFATA – Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association
Phat Panda ELiquid