A crackdown on the sale of vapes has left Western Australian store owners concerned for the future of their businesses.
Wet Wicks was one of 3000 stores to receive a notice from the Department of Health reminding owners that it is illegal for e-cigarette devices, whether they contain nicotine or not, to be sold by tobacco or general retailers.
However, owner Daniel Graham Davis said he assumed his store was legal as he set it up with the help of the Department of Health and had been subject to regular compliance checks.
"We had someone come through eight months ago and checked on us and said we're doing everything legally and correctly - now overnight we are doing the wrong thing."
The ramping up of compliance activities comes following a new campaign to highlight the dangers of vaping to teenagers and young people, and the seizure of almost 1000 e-cigarettes from a South West business.
WA Health's Environmental Health executive director Dr Michael Lindsay said targeted operations would be conducted on retailers regularly across the state to help minimise the health risks to the Western Australian community.
"Anyone caught selling these harmful devices may have their products seized and could face prosecution," he said.
Mr Davis agreed there should be a crackdown on sales to teenagers but said penalties would harm businesses that were doing everything by the book.
The maximum penalty for selling e-cigarettes, vapes and their components is $10,000 for an individual for a first offence and $20,000 for a second and subsequent offences.
If a business operates as a company, the maximum penalties are $40,000 and $80,000 respectively.
Mr Davis said the fear his stores could be shut kept him up at night.
"I have got three stores with $2000 a month rent on each and now it feels like the department could just shut us down any time," he said.
"If this happened I wouldn't be able to keep staff - I don't know how I would pay my mortgage or how I would feed my family.
"I'm very stressed out over it all."
Since receiving the notice from the Department of Health, Major Vapour owner Wayne Hawkins said he had held off ordering more stock.
"We don't know what could happen to our stores at the moment."
Busso Vapes owner Trinite Williams previously told the Mail his business was primarily a 'support center for harm reduction', with the goal to help as many people quit smoking as possible.
"It [the business] was never meant to be any more than a space within a social media platform, where people within the South West community could share and discuss information, and how we can create a successful pathway towards smoking cessation," he said.
Mr Hawkins and Mr Davis held a similar view of their businesses and called on the government for more regulation around the selling of vapes.
"The government doesn't want children vaping and we don't want that either or even people who were never smokers before vaping - we just want to help people quit smoking," Mr Hawkins said.
"We want to work with the government to legislate vape stores as legitimate businesses."
Mr Davis said he had been pushing for regulation for three years.
"All we want to do is help smokers quit smoking."
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