How To Sell Vape: Online & Retail Guide
Selling e-liquids and vape pens can be lucrative, but only if you have the right tools. Find out the legal requirements for selling e-liquid and see what platforms make it easy to sell vaping products.
Anyone researching how to sell vape products may find an eager customer base online. While about 6% of all US adults say they have recently vaped, that percentage rises significantly among young adults, with 17% of Americans aged 18-29 saying they have used e-cigarettes within the past week. And 32% of vape users say they receive their vape products in the mail vs. just 4% who buy in person.
What’s the best way to reach these potential customers? In this post, we’ll walk you through four of the best online platforms for selling vape, discuss how to sell vape online, and touch on the legal requirements for selling e-liquid so you’re ready to set up your online store, sell in person if you’d like, and capitalize on this growing market.
Table of Contents
- Legal Requirements To Sell E-Liquids
- Shipping Vape Products
- The 4 Best Platforms To Sell Vape Products
- Why We Don't Recommend These Options For Selling Vape
- Finding The Right Vape Products To Offer Your Customers
- Which Online Platform For Selling Vape Is Right For Your Business?
- FAQs: Selling Vape
- In Summary: The 4 Best Platforms To Sell Vape Products
Legal Requirements To Sell E-Liquids
Because tobacco products are federally regulated, opening a vape shop (in person or online) requires a little more planning and caution than any other type of store. Before you start to sell vape, you need a plan to make sure you’re in compliance with all federal and state laws, including tax laws.
The FDA provides extensive resources to help you learn how to sell vape online legally. Be aware that products can be considered “tobacco products” and subject to regulations even if they do not contain any tobacco. We suggest you read through the FDA’s list of frequently asked questions to familiarize yourself with the legal requirements for selling e-liquid.
It’s important to note that, in some circumstances, vape shops can be considered both retailers and manufacturers. If your e-liquid business plan involves mixing e-liquids or making or modifying vaporizers, you may be subject to manufacturer regulations in addition to retailer requirements.
Above all, when you’re selling age-restricted products online, you bear the responsibility of ensuring that your buyers are legally allowed to make purchases. Fortunately, there are tools available, like the FDA’s age calculator, that can help you stay in compliance. It’s smart to start with the FDA’s tobacco retailer training program, which you can download and review online.
Finally, if your plans for selling vape online include sales of JUUL products, you’ll need to comply with special efforts to combat underage use of those products. Every transaction that involves JUUL products must comply with automated electronic age verification and bulk-purchasing limits outlined in the Retail Access Control Standards (RACS) Program.
Fortunately, several of the platforms we will cover in this post include tools that will help you comply with these regulations and help you learn how to sell vape online the right way.
Shipping Vape Products
New restrictions went into effect in 2021 that limit shipping options for vape sellers. Designed to protect young people from the long-term health effects of using tobacco products, the updated PACT Act puts new requirements and restrictions on tobacco and tobacco-product sellers. These include:
- Compliance With State, Local, & Tribal Laws Involving Excise Taxes
- Registration With The Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms
- A Postal Ban On Shipping Vapes
What does this postal ban mean for vape sellers? As of October 2021, the US Postal Service is banned from transporting vapes and other smokeless tobacco products. Other prominent carriers, including UPS and FedEx, have followed suit and announced that they will end shipping for vaping devices and component parts. This is true even of vaping products that do not contain tobacco.
This ban applies also to hybrid services that rely on USPS for last-mile delivery. That means your vape shipments may not be as easy to ship as you’d like — but it’s not impossible to sell vape online and ship to customers. Look for integrations with shipping software like ShipStation that have recognized these difficulties and committed to supporting online vape sales by partnering with regional carriers that will deliver vape products to your customers.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
The 4 Best Platforms To Sell Vape Products
The best platforms that enable you to sell vape online and in person include Lightspeed, Shift4Shop, BigCommerce, and Franpos. These systems have the tools you need to stay compliant with legal requirements and grow your shop.
Lightspeed Retail POS
- 14-day free trial
- Linked payment processing system
- Built-in compliance tools
- Supports JUUL sales
- No free plan
- High monthly cost
- Limited payment options
Lightspeed Features For Selling Vape
Best known for its POS services, Lightspeed also offers a platform for online selling. Lightspeed specifically supports selling vape products online, with these features:
- In-person and online sales, with stock sync and cloud-based POS
- Built-in RACS compliance for JUUL sales
- Programmable register rules for age and quantity restrictions
- Customer profiles and purchase histories
- Special orders
- Loyalty program
- Gift cards (plastic, paper, or electronic)
- Shipping tools and integrations
- Social media integrations
- SEO tools to drive traffic
- Multiple languages
- Vape-friendly payment processors and integrations
Lightspeed offers five levels of eCommerce service, with prices ranging from $69-$229/month. Discounts are available if you pay for a year of service at a time. While Lightspeed eCommerce does not offer a free plan, new users can take advantage of a free trial period to test out the software.
Lightspeed POS is the obvious choice for processing payments on a Lightspeed eCommerce vape store. While some other options, like PayPal, are available in the app store, they’re not generally available when you’re selling products that, like vape, are considered high-risk. Fortunately, Lightspeed supports selling vape, both online and in person.
Where Lightspeed Really Shines For Vape Sales
While some platforms allow users to sell vape online, Lightspeed actively courts and supports these sellers. With built-in support for the regulatory and legal needs of vape sales, Lightspeed is well equipped to support online vape sellers and would be a good choice for new vape businesses that could use that kind of support.
- Robust free plan
- Dropshipping options
- Free themes
- High-risk payment processing options
- Sales limits on plans
- Free plan not suitable for vape sales
Shift4Shop Features For Selling Vape
Shift4Shop offers a fully loaded free plan, with full access to advanced features for users who use the in-house payment, Shift4 Payments. Unfortunately, this plan is not available to vape sellers, since vape is a high-risk category and Shift4 Payments does not support high-risk sellers. Still, Shift4Shop deserves its place on the list of best platforms for vape sales, because it offers useful tools that include integrations with eight high-risk payment processors.
Here’s a sample of what Shift4Shop delivers:
- Subscription tools
- Dropshipping support
- Age verification
- Integrations with top high-risk payment processors
- Social media integrations
- Email marketing
- Customer questions and reviews
- Loyalty program
- Shipping integrations that support vape shipments
- Promotional tools for weekly sales, temporary discounts, and coupons
- Tax settings
Shift4Shop offers a robust free plan that requires users to process payments with the in-house payment processor, Shift4 Payments. Unfortunately, this processor does not work with high-risk products like vape, so it’s not available to those selling vape online.
That leaves vape sellers with their choice of three paid plans, costing $29/month, $79/month, and $229/month.
As we’ve said, the in-house payment processor does not accept high-risk transactions, so it’s not an option for vape vendors. However, Shift4Shop offers integrations with eight high-risk payment processors, several of which are top-rated.
Where Shift4Shop Really Shines To Sell Vape Products
Build your online vape store using Shift4Shop as your platform, and you gain access to an easy way to build subscription and recurring sales. Shift4Shop supports secure automatic billing and robust customer loyalty program tools. By making it easy to hold on to customers and build repeat business, Shift4Shop brings your vape business one step closer to ongoing success.
- Free trial, no credit card
- Loaded with features
- High-risk payment options
- Shipping support
- Revenue caps on subscription plans
- Some useful features limited to higher-level plans
BigCommerce Features For Selling Vape
All BigCommerce subscription plans come with ample features for selling online, though you may not be fully satisfied with the options included in lower-tier plans. At the same time, it’s important to note that BigCommerce actively supports selling vape online and welcomes high-risk sellers. That includes some available integrations that online vape sellers will appreciate.
Here’s a rundown of what you can expect to find:
- Recurring billing and subscriptions
- Age verification add-ons available
- In-person sales supported
- Coupons, discounts rules, and gift cards
- Product ratings and reviews
- Prebuilt integrations for multichannel selling, including social sales
- Dropshipping features
- Choice of high-risk payment processors
- Inventory management tools
- Shipping tools
- Tax settings
- SMS marketing
BigCommerce pricing includes four levels, starting at $29.95/month for Standard and rising to $79.95/month for Plus and $299.95/month for Pro. An Enterprise plan is available with custom pricing for each individual business. Plans come with sales limits ranging from $50K/year to $400K/year, with unlimited sales allowed on the Enterprise plan. Users who exceed their sales cap will be bumped automatically to the next plan level.
A free trial of BigCommerce is available.
BigCommerce includes 65+ payment built-in gateway integrations. However, most of those will be unavailable for online stores selling vape products. BigCommerce also integrates with four high-risk gateways that may support high-risk sales like e-cigarettes: USA ePay, NMI, Pinwheel Pay, and Worldpay Ecomm.
Where BigCommerce Really Shines To Sell Vape Products
Compared to similarly priced eCommerce competitors, BigCommerce offers above-average features. Since users won’t have to pay for a lot of add-ons to gain advanced features, BigCommerce is a great value out of the box. And with its active support for selling vape online, it’s a good choice for selling e-liquid in an online shop.
- Transparent pricing
- Online and in-person selling
- Third-party integrations
- Delivery supported
- RACS compliant
- Some coding required
- No shipping integrations
Franpos Features For Selling Vape
The basic Franpos POS software includes the option of setting up and managing a simple, personalized online store. If you want more advanced features, you’ll need to purchase integrations or consider using another platform. Still, Franpos offers some features that specifically support online vape sales. For example:
- RACS compliance
- Age verification
- Sell in-person and online
- Loyalty program
- Delivery via Postmates or self-delivery
- Facebook and Twitter links
Franpos costs $199-$249/month for a single terminal, with an additional $99/month charge for each additional terminal.
Franpos integrates with a handful of big-name processors, not all of which support vape sales. However, you’ll find acceptable options, such as Heartland, WorldPay, and EVO.
Where Franpos Really Shines For Selling Vape Products
Franpos offers delivery options, including a Postmates integration and self-delivery by your own staff, that support local sales. You can use Franpos eCommerce to make online sales and use Franpos POS to support in-person sales. However, if your sales goals include shipping, this may not be the right platform for you.
Why We Don't Recommend These Options For Selling Vape
You might be looking for a name that didn’t appear on this list of the best platforms for online vape sales. Here are a few top names that we considered, along with the reasons we are leaving them off this “best of” list:
Shopify For Selling Vape
We frequently recommend Shopify as an easy and relatively affordable way to get started selling online. However, when it comes to selling vape online, you can expect to run into some problems with Shopify. Most importantly, the platform’s in-house payment processor, Shopify Payments, does not allow sales of any products that have to do with smoking. E-cigarettes and e-liquid are specifically prohibited. That means you’ll be stuck using an outside processor and paying Shopify’s added transaction fees, decreasing your profits. For that reason, we don’t think Shopify is the best choice for online vape sales.
WooCommerce For Selling Vape
In general, we like WooCommerce a lot, because it’s flexible and it’s free. However, if you use WooCommerce to build your online vape store, you will need developer knowledge, and you’ll have to pay for hosting and security with no vape-specific resources to help you out. If those conditions don’t faze you, WooCommerce is worth looking into. However, for the average seller looking for a simple way to sell vape online, WooCommerce won’t be your best bet.
Best known for its POS tools supporting in-person selling, Clover offers an online option, in partnership with BigCommerce, that lets you operate a simple, one-page online store or add Clover to an existing website. That makes Clover seem like potentially a good choice for merchants who sell primarily in-person and want to add a simple online option. However, we note that while Clover is RACS-compliant, age verification tools are included only for in-person selling. That means it’s not the best choice for online sales, unless you’re adding Clover as a payment option to an existing store with built-in or added age-verification capabilities.
Square Online For Vape
While Square does support payments for electronic cigarettes and vape products, such sales must be processed as card-present transactions. That means online sales are not allowed. However, Square is still a good POS choice for in-person vape sales.
Finding The Right Vape Products To Offer Your Customers
Your online vape business can offer a wide variety of vape-related products to shoppers. These products can be obtained from thousands of manufacturers, and they all require age verification prior to selling.
Here is a quick list of the types of vape products you can sell:
When a person vapes, he or she heats up a liquid that produces vapors that can be inhaled. The liquid can include nicotine but does not have to. E-liquids are also known as e-juice, and they come in a variety of flavors.
Knowns as vape pens or e-cigarettes, vaping devices come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They may be prefilled or come with a refillable tank, and they can be disposable or built to be refilled and reused.
Vape Equipment Components
The heating element in a vape device, known as the coil, burns out after repeated use and needs to be replaced. Some vape users build their own coils out of metal and cotton materials. Batteries are used to heat the coils, and they also must be replaced regularly.
Note that all of these products lend themselves to subscription sales. Whether it’s batteries, coils, or liquid, you can meet your customer’s needs and boost your sales by setting up automatic deliveries on the timetables your customers prefer for these items.
Which Online Platform For Selling Vape Is Right For Your Business?
Vaping tools and products are big business in the US, and nothing stands in the way of successful online vape sales. However, because vape is considered a tobacco-adjacent product, even if the products you sell don’t contain tobacco, you’ll need to make sure your online store complies with all state and federal laws for this highly regulated product. Remember, too, that you’ll need to process all sales through a high-risk payment processor, whether or not your vape products contain tobacco or other regulated substances.
Because vape sales can be more complicated than other types of online selling, it’s important that you have a solid business plan in place before you jump into selling. That means you’ll need a well-researched business plan to help you stay on track. For the best chance of succeeding in the crowded and somewhat complicated world of online vape sales, we recommend that you establish a business budget, too. That doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds. Check out our post on creating a budget to learn why you need a business budget and to find out how to make a budget that works for your online vape business.