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Vape Shop, Smoke Shop, Head Shop. Oh my!

These are three terms for different types of shops that sell vape and smoke-related items.

Vape Shop vs Smoke Shop vs Head Shop.

What’s the difference? Let’s discuss, we will also cover how to find one near you.

What is a vape shop?

A vape shop or vape store is a retail establishment specializing in cigarette and smoking replacement devices, often called vapes. These vape devices have evolved and changed over the years, but the concepts of what they are and how they work remain the same.

Since 2013, when the first vape shops arrived, continued product development and innovation brought the additions of mods, salt nic, and disposable vapes, which have altered the landscape of the vape shop to be almost unrecognizable from what it looked like a decade ago. Not to mention there are 17 more now for every one that existed then.

In addition, you will probably find some vape shops also sell smoke shop products, such as bongs, pipes, and cigarillos. Many more will also have a wide range of CBD and kratom products.

So the lines, product selection-wise, have been blurred for some time. This is probably a natural progression as product development continues and more vape shops appear.

What to expect from a vape shop?

Expectations of a vape shop can change based on where you are. For example, you are more likely to see vape shops with a large footprint in big cities and densely populated areas. Generally larger and have multiple locations. On the other hand, in more rural areas, you will probably find more quaint and cozy shops, definitely less volume of shops, and less big chains, and more mom-and-pop, family-run stores.

Generally speaking, vape stores tend to be more boutique-style establishments with a warm and welcoming vibe. Shops that you find styled this way are usually ones that have been around for a while; the reason for this is ten years ago, vaping was all about making the switch from cigarettes to vaping. So the shopkeeper would set up in a manner that catered to customer care, education and demos. Similar to a jewelry store or high-end clothing store.

However, in 2023, with the end of Generation Z reaching the legal age to purchase vapes. Soon to be followed by Gen Alpha. Most have probably never smoked a cigarette. Although this is a good thing for the overall health and wellness of the population, we will likely see extended life expectancies. As a result, the new generation of vapors is quickly becoming a more significant percentage of consumers for vape products. Instead of smoking, they are going directly to vaping, likely because their parents had switched from smoking years earlier. Unfortunately, the style and look of vape shops have begun to change along with the consumer.

Some of these new vape shops are styled to look more like big box stores, de-personalizing the experience and pushing the consumer to do their own product research. Typically, this would be what you would expect from a 25-year-old who grew up with a phone in their hand, and many will survive and be happy with that experience. But that’s the beauty of being a total believer and participant in the free market; everyone has the right to offer a service or business styled the way they think is best.

However, with information being more accessible than it was to their parents, the younger consumer believes they know exactly what they want and are suddenly subject matter experts. The biggest issue with this situation is; they aren’t. Additionally, there are still old, and new smokers who will need the education, service, and care only an actual product expert could provide.

So the expectation is kind of like, beauty; it’s in the eye of the beholder. Keep in mind that if you visit four shops and 3 of them all look the same, and you can make a transaction while on Snapchat and speak less than ten words, you know you are at the latter version of a “vape shop.” So maybe give that one that’s different the shot, as they are probably the pro. Then, of course, you could always ask questions and easily find out the truth because the truth is out there.

What is a smoke shop?

Not dissimilar from a vape shop that sells vapes. A smoke shop, also known as a head shop, is a retail establishment that sells smoking-related hardware, glassware, and accessories. Originating from independently owned poster and candle stores, a popular jumping-off point for underground newspapers, comic artists, and cartoonists such as Robert Crumb.

A head shop or headshop, believed to date back to at least 1966, and be related to pothead or pot head, was a term for this retail establishment based around the saying “Get your head right.” To give some context to the dating of the colloquialism, look to the obvious. California.

Psychedelic Shop in San Francisco opened its doors in 1966 and is thought to be the oldest smoke shop in the country.

Established in 1967, Captain Ed’s in Los Angeles is the head shop with the longest continuous run in the same location.

What to expect from a smoke shop?

Hippie vibes and good times; it’s not 1967 anymore, but some things never change. Vape shops may, but smoke shops have seemed to stand the test of time and legal battles.

In 1973, The US Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. California meant local communities could decide the standards of obscenity according to the First Amendment. Summing it up, the locals could determine “whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Ending the run of many head shops.

Mostly underground, somehow, in the 1980s and 90s, smoke shops flourished. Although many credit, rap, rock music, independent record and tape shops, and movie rental stores were underground smoke shops, in many cases. Others credit other more innocent items, such as eco-friendly and homemade products, as smoke shops were likely to stock and sell such items.

Walk into any smoke shop today, in addition to hand pipes, grinders, and water pipes, you will likely see references to the past and seemingly ancient times of smoke shop history.

How do I find a good vape, smoke, or head shop?

With the increasing prevalence of vape shops and smoke shops and the growing and migrating population, it can be challenging to find a good one. We have a few tips for you to assist you in your search.

How to find a vape shop near me?

Google search is a powerful tool and one of the most straightforward terms to find something near you; it is just that simple. For example, if you are looking for a vape shop, try searching in Google or Google maps for “vape shop near me” this should give you a good starting point.

How to find a smoke shop near me?

When searching for a smoke shop, use “smoke shop near me” or “smoke shops near me” and the same for a head shop, with “head shop near me”, you should turn up more than enough results to get started.

Of course, read reviews, and check out their websites, all of the same things you would do if you were looking for a sushi restaurant or a plumber.

Fortunately, when it comes to this search, you do not have to buy to try. Just stop by and have a look around. If you don’t like the vibe, go to the next one. If you do, try 3 or 4 more so you have something to compare.

Written and researched by Vape Militia. We would love to have you over for an in-person consultation. You can also shop our product inventory or order for delivery. If you have a question or need assistance call (346)387-6462.

We’re ready and waiting to answer all your questions!

Vape Shop vs Smoke Shop vs Head Shop

What is the difference between a smoke shop and a head shop?

Both of these terms define a retail establishment that sells smoking related hardware and gear. Particularly glass pieces and rolling papers.

Why is it called a head shop?

A head shop or headshop, believed to date back to at least 1966, and be related to pothead or pot head, was a term for this retail establishment based around the saying “Get your head right.” To give some context to the dating of the colloquialism, look to the obvious. California.

Do smoke shops sell Delta-8?

Depending on the state and the laws and regulations, yes. You can find Delta 8 at many smoke shops and vape shops too.

What do smoke shops sell?

Smoke shops can and do sell a variety of items. Including t-shirts, and other non smoking related items, many in the 1960’s sold underground prints such as comic books and newspapers. However, most smoke shops sell smoking hardware such as glass pieces and pipes, rolling papers, electronic rigs and many also sell vape products as well.

Are smoke shop that sell carts legal?

Depends. On the state and the content of the carts, but yes, most if not every smoke shop sells vape carts.