LDR SHAKEDOWN AT VPX NOLA
VPX NOLA, presented by the ECC, turned out to be a tremendous success.
I know this because I was there.
The turnout was awesome – with around 500 vendors and over 3,000 attendees – the atmosphere was lively – with a mini parade rolling its way throughout the pathways between booths around halls H, I, and J of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and the presentation by all parties was dramatically and overly on point.
Looking at it as a spectator, it was difficult to see anything other than a typical New Orleans throw-down. The VPX did NOLA proud, and the local shops in attendance showed the ECC and all the other shops in attendance how we do things down here in the Big Easy. But underneath all that, behind all the bright lights and smiling faces, hidden somewhere within that cloud of vapor that hung in the air throughout the Morial Convention Center this past weekend, there was a black eye being placed upon this tremendous event.
It all began early in the morning on Friday, November 6th, as exhibitors were assembling their booths within that very same but not yet clouded Convention Center, preparing to get this convention weekend underway. Upon every table, however, was a quite demanding letter from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, apparently placed there by some unseen hand in the middle of the night, explaining how they intended to collect taxes on any and all E-liquid samples that happened to be given away at this event. It seemed their idea was to tax these free e-liquid samples no differently than any other Louisiana E-liquid that would be sold, thanks to the recently passed HB119 that placed a $0.5/ml tax on any e-liquid containing nicotine. The only catch was, as stated previously, none of these e-liquids were being sold. They were being given away as free samples.
For those that may not know, this is an all too common practice at any vapor convention one may attend throughout the country, or even the world, for more than one reason. Conventions such as VPX NOLA are a tremendous opportunity for vape shops to get their name out in the open, by putting their product into the hands of the consumers that may have never been able to find them any other way. And beyond that, it’s the perfect opportunity for vape shops to intermingle and find new e-liquid lines to carry in their own store – new and exotic lines from across the country that their customers may have never heard of, or may have been requesting. Many shops arrive at these vapor conventions with no intention of making any money at all, and treat the entire experience as a chance to simply get their name in the hands of consumers.
So this threat of a possible tax on samples put an instant and quite unnecessary weight upon everyone’s shoulders. Shops from out of town, who’ve been all over the country to these conventions and have never seen anything of the sort, were approaching local shops to see if maybe they had a bit of insight on the situation. But local shops were just as dumbfounded as everyone else.
There was no warning, no education on the matter, and no one had any clue what was going on.
Over at the LAECR booth, I watched as LAECR Members worked diligently throughout the event to remedy the situation. But that didn’t stop LDR agents from harassing exhibitors throughout the weekend, demanding to receive these taxes immediately and threatening to place leans on any business that did not comply.
By the start of the day Sunday, however, a giant question mark still seemed to hang in the air. Exhibitors were still unsure how or even if these taxes would be collected.
Was the LDR going to barricade these exhibitors inside the halls of the Convention Center until they coughed up $0.5/ml of e-liquid that was given away for free?
Were they going to chase them out of state to close down their shops?
The questions kept coming, as exhibitors, sponsors, and presenters alike all grew more uncomfortable, and questions arose regarding the future of VPX NOLA.
According to WDSU, Louisiana Senator JP Morrell has already reached out to both the Louisiana Department of Revenue and VPX organizers in an attempt to smooth things over, stating that “New Orleans’ economy depends on maintaining our reputation as a premier host city for large conventions.”
Still, though, in a city known for great food, it was the exhibitors of VPX NOLA and the ECC, themselves, who left our great state with a bad taste in their mouths. It was they who have been unjustly harassed, for not only trying to better their own businesses by attempting to expand into Louisiana, thus adding to our economy – but for the ECC attempting to make New Orleans a vapor destination, and bring in more tax dollars to this state than all the free samples that all the vape shops at the VPX combined could give away in any three day weekend.
So not only did a state agency drop the ball and slap a 2.5 billion dollar per year industry across the face, insulting both the godfather of vapor conventions as well as exhibitors representing some of the top companies from throughout the country – just like the wonderful weekend that was VPX NOLA ended with beads being thrown out from a genuine Mardi Gras float – the Louisiana Department of Revenue may have thrown away the Crescent City’s only genuine chance to hold an ECC sponsored event ever again.
Show your support for VPX NOLA by supporting the VPX and the ECC.
Let ‘em know how much we loved them here, and how empty the Crescent City would be without VPX NOLA visiting us every single year!
And if you’re a Louisiana Vaper interested in standing up for our vapor rights, or a Louisiana Shop Owner willing to dedicate a little bit of time to help keep our industry safe, show your support and sign up with LAECR at laecr.org!