The vaping world is all too familiar with clouds, and to most of us, the heavier the better. But if (eventually) the FDA gets its way, May 5, 2016 will go down as one that cast a heavy dark cloud on the vape universe. And no, this wasn’t from the VG. This was different. This was ominous. May be nimbus.
For it is on that day that an omnibus bill that will change the vape industry as we know it came into effect. For the sake of those who don’t know what an omnibus bill entails, allow me. Basically it is a proposed law that spans a wide range of diverse and practically unrelated topics. It’s usually passed into law with a single vote, bundling multiple proposals into one.
The downside with such a law is that the sheer size and scope of the bills contained makes it extremely difficult for people to scrutinize and debate the information within them. It is for this reason you’ll find time and again many arguing against the constitutionality of such a bill; and this is no different.
So, what has this got to do with you as a vaper?
Finally, the New Vaping Regulations are Here
Well, on that fifth day of May, the FDA released a 499-page document spelling out the new regulations imposed on the e-cigarette industry.
As things stand, e-cigarettes and vapor products (this includes everything from e-juice to atomizers to vape tanks) have been reclassified as tobacco products and will be regulated by government in the same way it does traditional cigarettes. This will also cover pipe tobacco, hookahs, premium cigars and little cigars, and other products.
That means they can neither be marketed to minors under the age of 18 years, nor can they be used in places like restaurants, bars, theaters and other locations that forbid smoking.
But that’s not the big issue here. In fact, some habits like vaping in public spaces with little regard to those around you have caused vaping a bad name, and if you’re like most of us, it’s certainly something you can’t defend. The same goes for selling vape products to minors.
Under the new vaping regulations, every vaping product will now need to be registered through a costly, time-consuming process called a PMTA (Premarket Tobacco Application) that will cost companies millions. Yes, including the thousands of small businesses where you source your juice from.
The new vaping regulations will not affect any e-cigarette or vaping product (juice or hardware) that was on the market as of February 15, 2007. But anything that came after has to undergo a prolonged and expensive process to ascertain that it doesn’t have more risk to it than a product that was on the market pre-2007.
Sounds like a lot of blabber, I know, but in other words, devices made after that time have to prove they are not dangerous, while the ones that came before do not.
Of course, no one is saying proving vape products (the devices and e-liquid) are not dangerous is a bad thing. As at now, however, what’s clear is that it’s been proven to be less harmful than smoking – by both sides of the divide, mind you. But if you’ve been in the habit for long, you will know that simply doesn’t cut it in some quarters – studies or not.
And now to that age issue…
California has a New Minimum Smoking Age
California governor Jerry Brown – the one whose re-election was almost solely funded by the Altria Group – has signed another pack of new vaping regulations whose highlights include raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 years and restricting the use of e-cigs in public places; public schools are also officially no smoking zones now.
This comes in the wake of the reclassification of e-cigarettes as tobacco, with bill author Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) arguing that ‘vaping devices are aggressively marketed to young people with candy flavors [that appeal to them] such as bubble gum’. He based his argument on a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which established the rate of e-cigarette use among high school students to have tripled between 2013 and 2014.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Just so you know, of all states in the US, California is the only mainland state to raise the ‘smoking’ age to 21 (save for Hawaii across the pond). The second highest have it capped at 19 years of age, including Utah, Alaska and New Jersey.
State Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) proposed the age bill citing a need to stem adolescent addiction and ‘save lives’ as his motivation, with the state putting up ‘a united front against Big Tobacco’.
We agree with his point to save lives, without a doubt. Everyone knows cigarettes kill. It’s the reason we switched to vaping in the first place.
Speaking of Big Tobacco…
A Win for Big Tobacco
Casting an eye into the future, Big Tobacco seems to be the winner. They may look like a victim from an outsider’s point of view (with Mr Brown’s antics and all) but this is just a smokescreen. It’s a world of fine lines we live in today.
Look at all those companies who made vape products before 2007. They have all been purchased by the big tobacco companies (the establishment), meaning it’s business as usual for them. Unlike everyone else who will be party to this draconian bill.
But with an industry that generated $3.5 billion in 2015 alone, it’s easy to see why. The Order always wins.
Job Loss, Costly Lifestyle and the Butterfly Effect
It seems some people just couldn’t wait for these bills to get passed because apparently, the bills touching on smoking (vaping is in this category too now) are expected to take effect on June 9; unlike all the others that become active on January 1, 2017.
For well moneyed entities like Big Tobacco, complying with these new vaping regulations won’t take much, and probably a bunch of the other larger vaping companies as well. But the same cannot be said of the thousands of vape shops in the country who make up the bulk of the industry; those shops whose sole business is selling their own custom e-liquid.
Based on how this law is drafted, every company would have to present an application for approval for every single e-liquid flavor they produce and intend to produce in the future. Going by estimates from the FDA, the PMTA process will require 1,500 hours per product.
That’s right, one thousand five hundred hours for every flavor and every nicotine level of e-liquid. In addition, FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products director Mitch Zeller says the process will also cost ‘several hundred thousand’ dollars per individual application. Which at the end of the day will mean more expensive e-liquid as this cost trickles down to the consumer.
You can guess what the butterfly effect of all this is likely to be.
For one, a good deal of those who made the choice to quit, or switch rather, are likely to turn back to their old ways. Second, an underground market for e-liquid similar to the days of prohibition will emerge. This is a discussion you’ve probably come across in the online vaping community as regulation became imminent.
The emphasis on e-liquid you see here as opposed to the hardware is because they are the reason these controversies erupted in the first place.
But even the mod market won’t be spared either. Companies that sell all the separate hardware you use to build your mods will need to register all the individual parts, with regulation even hinting at building closed-system models that don’t allow for customization.
The new vaping regulations bring dark days indeed. But unless I’m not from around here, I can’t foresee a world where vapers will play subservient and tow this line. If the black market for guns and drugs (online or otherwise) has been thriving for decades with little regard for the law, I don’t see why e-liquid and vape hardware will not.
After all, last time I checked, almost all atomizer and mod creators are located overseas, and particularly in Asia. Of course, the new vaping regulations in the United States will have a reverberating effect on their business. Naturally, they can (and will) peddle their wares to other countries which also have their own regulations, but so far not as stringent as the ones being implemented in the United States, the Land of the Free. Oh, the irony.
And considering most of the good e-liquids come from companies in the US, those countries too are likely to feel the heat, no doubt.
But where does that leave Big Tobacco? They’ll be cashing virtually all the cheques that come to the United States.
It would be terrible and such a shame if an industry that’s been built by the end consumer who made the conscious decision to quit tobacco for a healthier lifestyle is thrown to the same group whom we avoided in the first place. At the expense of thousands of average folks like you and I whom they care little about because they don’t want to share a piece of the profit.
As they say around here, the industry will be thrown to the dogs.
It’s the last thing we want to say about vaping.
So, what can we do about these new vaping regulations? Here are some links to get you started:
Petition to the white House: Needs 42,191 signatures by June 4, 2016
Message to your Representative: Send a message to your Representative
Message to the Attorney General: Send a message to your state Attorney General
Tell your Story: Share your story with CASAA as part of their ‘Testimonial Project’