Smoke Shops Are the New Cannabis Dispensaries

Over the past couple of decades, smoke shop owners have watched as the business model for traditional tobacconists has slowly unraveled. The cigar boom of the 90’s ended, and prices for premium cigars eventually bottomed out from their ebullient former highs. The laws changed, and exotic flavored cigarettes from companies like Djarum and Nat Sherman were either removed from the American market or drastically changed. 

Nicotine users themselves have changed over the past couple of decades as well. Between escalating tobacco taxes and a decline in smoking rates spurred by the advent of new smoke-free alternatives such as vaping, smoke shops simply don’t have as many people coming through their doors these days as they once did.

So, how have smoke shops managed to survive through difficult times? Astute business owners have recognized the fact that many of the traditional tobacco users of the world have left the fold and aren’t coming back. 

Every year, there are fewer people who identify themselves as cigarette or cigar smokers than the year before. The only way for smoke shops to survive is by evolving, and that’s exactly what the best tobacconists have done. Smoke shops have become the new cannabis dispensaries and head shops. They’re staying in business by attracting completely new customers who would have never entered those types of stores before. 

When you enter a modern smoke shop today, you’re going to see a significant number of products that tobacconists wouldn’t have dreamed of carrying – or that wouldn’t have existed at all – just a few years ago. If you’re a smoke shop owner, these are the products that you need to consider carrying in 2022.

Tobacco and Loose-Leaf Vaporizers

Vaporizers occupy an interesting point at the intersection between the tobacco and cannabis industries because they’re useful for both types of products. For any type of smokable product, a vaporizer eliminates the need for combustion by heating the product to a high enough temperature that the product releases its active compounds as vapor. 

A vaporizer doesn’t become hot enough, however, to ignite the material in its oven. Vaporization, therefore, makes it possible for users to consume the nicotine and cannabinoids in tobacco and cannabis while reducing the harm associated with smoking those substances.

If you own a smoke shop and are potentially interested in adding vaporizers to your product selection, you’ll want to become familiar with those products so you can help your customers find the vaporizers that are best for their needs. Remember that although your smoke shop may not be a true cannabis dispensary, anyone who buys a vaporizer may also be a cigarette smoker who represents an opportunity for you to sell an ancillary product: loose-leaf tobacco. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to stock high-quality vaporizers that people will enjoy and want to continue using. 

Look for vaporizers that offer true temperature control because nicotine – and the wide variety of cannabinoids found in hemp – vaporize within different temperature ranges. You’re probably not going to want to devote an enormous section of your store to vaporizers, so you’ll need to choose a few devices that will work for the widest possible variety of users. 

Legal THC Products

If you don’t keep up with the changing trends in the cannabis industry, you may not be aware about what cannabinoids are currently popular. Perhaps you live in a state that has legalized cannabis for recreational use – and in that case, the cannabis users in your state are probably already well served by a network of dispensaries. In other areas, though, where cannabis is only legal with a medical prescription or isn’t legal at all, legal THC products have emerged as popular alternatives. 

Legal THC products use slightly different versions of the THC molecule than the one listed as a controlled substance by the federal government. The form of THC found in marijuana is Delta-9 THC. That’s a controlled substance, and it’s subject to federal and state regulations. Most legal THC products, on the other hand, use Delta-8 THC which isn’t a controlled substance. At the time of writing, Delta-8 is not regulated by the federal government although some states have put regulating procedures in place. 

Delta-8 THC produces a milder sensation than Delta-9 THC, which makes it a great option for beginner cannabis users or people who find Delta-9 THC to be too intense. If you own a smoke shop and are potentially interested in carrying products like Delta-8 gummies, it’s important to buy only from a company that subjects its products to stringent lab tests to ensure quality and potency.

Alternative Nicotine Products

Although cannabis has become the new tobacco for a large part of the population, ignoring the needs of nicotine users could be perilous if you own a smoke shop because there’s still a large portion of the population that smokes nicotine. 

The nature of nicotine use, however, has changed greatly in recent years because many people have moved away from tobacco and are now using alternative nicotine products instead. It’s important for you to meet those customers’ needs if you want people to continue buying from you.

If you’re a smoke shop owner, you’re probably well aware of vaping and may even carry a selection of vaping products already. Vaping has been around for well over a decade at this point, and many tobacconists began carrying e-cigarettes and e-liquid long ago. 

Along with vaping, though, nicotine pouches have emerged as new alternatives that many smokers find just as compelling as vaping. Because nicotine pouches generally contain tobacco-free nicotine, they’re not regulated at the federal level at the time of writing and are available in a much wider array of flavors than traditional nicotine replacement products. Many people find nicotine pouches much more satisfying and enjoyable to use than nicotine gums and lozenges.

Compliance Is the Biggest Challenge for the Modern Smoke Shop

If you own a smoke shop and are interested in broadening your product selection to appeal to a wider customer base, the most important thing to remember is that compliance is the biggest challenge for today’s smoke shops. Many of the alternative nicotine products and cannabis-derived products that are on the market today are available in large part because there are no federal regulations that currently apply to them. That could certainly change in the future, though, and it’ll be up to you to stay on top of the changing legal climate if you intend to sell those products. 

However, the benefit of expanding your product selection and moving past the stodgy world of tobacco products is that your smoke shop can potentially experience a level of growth unlike anything you’ve seen in years – or perhaps ever. A big part of owning any business is being willing to adapt to customers’ changing needs, and that’s more evident in the world of tobacco than in just about any other industry.


TBN Editor

Time Business News Editor Team