We know vape laws are coming. The battle lines have been drawn. On one side, you have a number of health organizations that have curiously aligned with the interests of Big Tobacco and on the other you have the vaping community and free enterprise advocates.
What health organizations like the CDC and CDPH want, in alignment with the wishes of Big Tobacco, is for the FDA to keep the February 2007 grandfather date for regulating new tobacco products, including ecigarettes. This would essentially force most evapor businesses to shut their doors because they could not afford the lengthy and expensive approval process regardless of their ability to meet any imposed standards.
The vaping community, advocates and those who favor free enterprise would like to see is a change to the grandfather date to allow independent American small business have a chance to compete with the money, power, influence and distribution of Big Tobacco. This would mean that independent evapor businesses could continue as long as they met the FDA standards.
If vape laws go forward as currently proposed by the FDA, any new tobacco product that was not sold prior to February 2007, including 99% of ecigs and eliquids, will have to shell out the cash to pass through the FDA approval process. It really comes down to that.
There are bills in Congress that are calling for changing the grandfather date and there are bills to keep the grandfather date. The FDA also has the discretion to change the date on its own.
Going through an FDA approval process can cost millions upon millions of dollars. While these costs are nothing to Big Tobacco companies, they will essentially crush the vast number of independent ecig companies that are truly the ones driving vaping forward. They just do not have the resources to compete with Big Tobacco.
Picture this, you are a hard-working ecig company that has been competing with 500 ecig brands. It is American free enterprise at its best. You have been driven to achieve the very best quality and have invested heavily in making better, safer ejuice and better products. You have an FDA approved lab, you follow strict production protocols and you make the purest, best ejuice in the world. VaporFi, Halo and Apollo are brands that fall into this category.
Next, new vape laws dictate that even though you exceed every imposed standard, and even agree with them, you must now submit every product for specific approval. Each product may cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to have approved. That is one eliquid with 5 nicotine levels could cost you millions of dollars. Well, you don’t have millions of dollars! You have to scale back heavily of shut the doors.
Big Tobacco on the other hand has FDA connections and billions of dollars at its disposal. They will cruise through FDA approvals and will enjoy the benefits of weakened competition. They may even end up with an ecig monopoly.
What the actual outcome of pending vape laws will be is unknown. Recently, the FDA expressed concern about the safety of eliquid and has called for public comments on the matter. If this concern over eliquid can be regarded as a signal of the FDA’s leanings, then it could be bad news.
Will vape laws push vaping underground?
You have to understand the current status of the electronic cigarette industry. For people with a casual interest only, they see ecigarettes as the products sold at the same places that sell cigarettes. That is a basic device that actually looks like a cigarette.
When they talk about ecig sales, they are often talking about the retail sales of Vuse, Blu Cigs or Mark Ten, all owned by Big Tobacco which is why you see them on store shelves to begin with.
Following any imposed vape laws by the FDA, you are still going to see those same products in the same places. You can basically consider those Big Tobacco ecig products to be secure from any detrimental regulation.
The issue is that those basic ecig devices are not the preferred choice of experienced vapers. Ecig tank systems and sophisticated devices are leading the industry forward. Those devices vaporize eliquid that is a separate product from the device itself. Vapers buy bottles of eliquid to either refill ecig tanks or to drip directly onto atomizers. This is where vaping is right now.
If vape laws make buying nicotine eliquid illegal or if the regulatory path to market is too oppressive for eliquid vendors to remain in business, will vapers give up their mods and go back to the basic ecigs sold by Big Tobacco in retail stores? Big Tobacco is hoping so but after talking to a number of vapers you can put that scenario into the “not gonna happen” category.
Vapers that have moved into sophisticated devices and enjoy the options provided by eliquid vendors are not going to go back to basic ecigs.
The basic ecigs are fine and may help someone make the transition away from tobacco but the vaping culture is thriving and it is not going back. They may have no choice but to be forced underground.
No regulation will be able to stop vapers from buying vaporizing devices. Not unless they ban batteries, kanthal wire and cotton which obviously will not happen.
Vapers will always have access to ecig devices. It is the eliquid that they may have to suddenly become resourceful to acquire.
There is a serious danger here. Eliquid should be blended in a lab setting and blended by professionals. Recent studies have shown that boutique eliquids often have the wrong nicotine levels.
It has also been estimated by ecig advocates that 74% of eliquid contain diaceytl, which has been connected to popcorn lung, which is a serious and potentially fatal lung condition. There are quality eliquids out there like halo, Apollo and VaporFi that do not use diacetyl but there are many more that are not professionally blended.
Regulation is needed but to incidentally wipe out the good eliquid companies by forcing them to pay millions for the FDA approval process. Implementing standards and then enforcing them would make more sense. There is no doubt that forcing eliquids into a black market will put people at risk.
What do you think will happen if vapers are forced underground? Will an eliquid black market evolve? It could. Some say that it already has.
Just to kick start the speculation, there are a couple of scenarios that could play out if vape laws wiped out nicotine eliquids.
Scenario number one: Vendors continue to sell eliquids without nicotine. Under this scenario, vapers would have the option of putting their own nicotine into their ejuice. This sounds reasonable but there are problems.
Storing a container of pure liquid nicotine creates possible risk of contamination. Understanding how much nicotine to add to an eliquid is not as easy as it sounds. Lab procedures demand exact standards and testing. Under ‘do it yourself’ conditions there is a risk for miscalculating the nicotine content as well as potential contaminants.
Scenario number 2: Eliquid goes underground and is blended by people who do not know what they are doing and have no obligation to use the best ingredients. In this case, vapers will be forced to sneak around and put themselves at risk vaping eliquid with who knows what in it.
If vapers are forced underground, no one wins except smoking and Big Tobacco.
If vape laws go forward as currently proposed by the FDA, some anti-vaping groups and Big Tobacco will celebrate but we will be taking a giant leap backward in the fight against tobacco harm.