Like many cities across the US vaping has taken off in a big way in San Diego. There are now a number of shops in, or close to the downtown area. Recent research from the SDSU, (San Diego State University), found that there are an increasing number of people using e-cigarettes, not as a cessation tool to smoking but for social reasons.
San Diego is certainly not alone in experiencing this trend which has been a concern to health groups across the nation. It is also one of the main reasons that the FDA has taken such a tough stance on the vape shop and vaping industry. That and the pressure from “Big Tobacco” lobbying.
Using Every Trick in the Book Makes Strange Bedfellows
For many years, the four biggest tobacco companies have tried to eliminate the damaging competition they face from the vaping industry. Cigalikes, disinformation, lobbying pressure– Big Tobacco has used every type of maneuver imaginable to choke the life out of the vape shop industry and e-cigarette manufacturers all over the country.
And despite the fact that the vaping industry produces a product that’s demonstrably safer than conventional cigarettes, anti-smoking groups and consumer protection agencies, however unintentionally, have become Big Tobacco’s strongest allies.
As a result, the vaping industry stands at a crossroads. How events play out in the next few months will determine both the industry’s future and the fate of its thousands of employees. One thing is certain though– vape shops and e-cigarette manufacturers are up against a three-headed Goliath that wants nothing less than its destruction.
The Final Round?
In May of last year, The Food and Drug Administration established “deeming regulations” that placed the vaping industry under their control to the same extent as Big Tobacco is. Expected to come into full effect by August of 2018, the upshot of these regulations is that manufacturers and vape shops will have to register all of its products with the FDA and receive its approval before they can be sold to customers.
Essentially, this amounts to extending the strict regulations of the 2009 Tobacco Act and applying them to an industry that does not actually produce or sell tobacco. Once these stricter regulations go into effect, vaping industry entities will have to pay millions of dollars in regulatory costs just to begin the FDA’s approval process.
As things currently stand, the FDA has established February 15, 2007 as the “predicate date” for their regulation of the whole range of tobacco-related products, including e-cigarettes and the various flavors of nicotine juice. This predicate date, which precedes the start-up of almost every vape shop and manufacturer in the country, requires that any tobacco-related product introduced after February 15, 2007 must adhere to the requirements of the Tobacco Act.
A Fight Between (Un)Equals
Big Tobacco has waged a not-so-silent war on the vaping industry for almost a decade, but their victory blow could actually come from the FDA if the “deeming regulations” they established last May go into effect later this year. However ironic this might seem, given the acrimony that’s roiled between Big Tobacco and the FDA for so many decades, it’s clear the that the tobacco lobby has turned the agency into their patsy.
In the other corner stands the vape shop. Usually an independently owned business with only a few employees, vape shops will not be able to pay the enormous costs of meeting these regulations and continue to stay in business. And that’s just what Big Tobacco has wanted all along, at least once it realized the vaping industry was a legitimate threat– to flood these upstart companies with enforced costs they just can’t absorb.
Much of the vaping industry’s hope in this war hinges on the success of a piece of legislation known as the “Cole-Bishop Bill.” Formally called The FDA Deeming Authority Clarification of 2017 (H.R. 1136), the bill was introduced by Congressmen Sanford Bishop and Tom Cole as an attempt to force the FDA to establish a more appropriate predicate, one that will not put vape shops and small manufacturers out of business almost immediately.
If successful, the Cole-Bishop Bill would push this predicate date forward to Aug 8, 2016, allowing the majority of existing vaping business to keep their products on the market without FDA approval. Though in some ways a stop gap measure, The Cole-Bishop bill is a step in the right direction and merits the support of everyone in the vaping industry so as they can continue to support and help the many who do use e-cigarettes as a cessation product as they are still around 95% less harmful than smoking normal cigarettes.
About the Author: Jeffrey Ulrich, CEO, Chinavasion Wholesale Ltd., tech and cool gadgets enthusiast, creator of the Chinese e-commerce shop in 2004, Shenzhen, China.