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December 9, 2016

The Best & Worst Cities for Vapers

Are you a vaper looking for a great place to live? Or just curious which American cities are most welcoming to vapers? Have we got the study for you!

The R Street Institute, a center-right think tank in Washington, D.C., has created a ranking of 52 major U.S. cities based on their legislation and regulation of vaping and vapor businesses, and their attitudes toward vaping and tobacco harm reduction. The clever name is Vapescore, but what the ranking measures is far from a cute gimmick.

Essentially what the Vapescore looks at is whether the cities encourage smokers to switch to reduced-harm nicotine products like e-cigarettes, or discourage them. The researchers looked closely at four major areas, and created a point system for rewarding or punishing each city.

Vapescore: the ranking criteria


Each city began with 95 points, then points were added or deducted based on answers to four questions. Some responses earned deductions of 25 points. For the 52 cities ranked, the average overall score was 76.5, which the researchers say is equivalent to a letter grade of C. The median score was 85, equivalent to a letter grade of B.

1. Does the city impose environmental restrictions for vapor products in a manner inconsistent with tobacco harm reduction?
Cities that only restricted vaping in workplaces received much smaller deductions than those that treat vapor as equal to tobacco smoke. And the largest penalties were assigned to those cities that restricted vaping everywhere, including in vape shops.

2. What, if any, taxes are imposed on vapor products and how do they compare with tobacco cigarette taxes?
This question is meant to determine if the cities distinguished properly between vapor products and combustible tobacco in any taxation scheme.

3. Are there additional licensing requirements to sell vapor products?
Cities that impose licensing requirements over and above the FDA requirements detailed in the deeming regulations had points deducted. The authors noted that licensing fees rarely accomplish anything but increasing prices for consumers and making running a business more difficult.
4. Are there any additional factors that create a regulatory or economic disincentive to switch from tobacco cigarettes to vapor products?
Cities earned points for favorable regulatory climates for vape, and for not having been actively hostile to tobacco harm reduction in recent years. Conversely, cities with active anti-vaping campaigns (think Chicago’s utterly insane #VapingTruth travesty) lost points.

The losers: hang your heads


Thirteen cities earned a grade of F, with scores under 60. The losers include — not surprisingly — every city on the list from California. Amazingly, the Vapescores were calculated before California’s passage of Prop. 56, which will impose a brutal 70 percent tax on nicotine-containing e-liquids. Eight California cities tied with a score of 57.

Seattle also flunked, as did Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. But the lowest mark went to Minneapolis. With a Vapescore of 32, the larger Twin City ranks as almost twice as unfriendly to vapers as San Francisco, the home of anti-nicotine zealot Stanton Glantz.

Thanks to Minnesota’s 95 percent wholesale vapor products tax, and the persistent protection of the tobacco industry by wealthy ($55 million in assets) local lung association shills ClearWay Minnesota, Minneapolis earns bragging rights among cities proud of preventing smokers from finding a healthier alternative.

The winners: take a bow!


Seven cities earned A grades. With a Vapescore of 91, Colorado Springs and Denver both collected A- marks. Slightly ahead of the two Colorado cities, three from Arizona — Mesa, Phoenix and Tucson — came in at an impressive 94, tied with Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But number one on the vapers’ hit parade was Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a whopping 97 Vapescore. This beautiful Atlantic coast city is a tourist destination, known for its beaches and attractive subtropical climate. But it’s also home to a lot of military personnel, since there are numerous defense facilities nearby.

It’s fitting that the most welcoming city for vapers is also a center for soldiers and sailors, since smoking is far more common in the military than in the general population. Cheers and thanks to the many local vape shops that offer a better choice for our country’s defenders.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy
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Jeremy Mann
Jeremy Mann
4 years ago

How could I not pick a city that has an NBA team called the “Nuggets”. 😛

Michael Abrams
Michael Abrams
4 years ago

Interesting. State by state results would also be nice. Surprisingly, some of the locations that ranked well, like VA Beach, are in tobacco states. The influence of big tobacco did not impact their own back yards as much as areas that are more anti nicotine, like the northeast, west coast, and parts of the upper Midwest. Boston is terrible, but get out of the metro area in any direction, and the climate improves. Also, vaping seems so popular on the west coast, despite the climate. Maybe people in CA will now buy less premium juice or use less wattage with… Read more »

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