A potentially life-saving alternative to smoking will effectively be regulated out of existence in the US as of August of 2018. Small businesses that provide vaping supplies will likely be forced to close when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations take effect. As it stands, Republicans control the White House and the U.S. Congress, but these Obama era regulations are threatening to devastate small businesses in the emerging vapor industry.
The FDA currently regulates vaping products far more stringently than actual cigarettes. If actions are not taken soon by Republican lawmakers, forthcoming FDA regulations will decimate the vapor industry. This may sound drastic but it will retroactively remove 99% of vaping products from the market.
Many claim it’s a government-sanctioned competitive advantage carved out just for big players in Big Tobacco. They have seen a large decline in smoking since the vaping and e-cigs came on strong to the market. It gave smokers a healthier alternative that was effective and long lasting. The only time Big Tobacco sides with vaping are when a flavor is involved, otherwise, they are in essence competition with each other.
Currently, there were two bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. These would level the playing field regarding how the FDA is regulating Big Tobacco and the vapor industry. These two acts are important. Here is a look at what they would do if passed.
The FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2017, introduced on February 16 and sponsored by Reps. Tom Cole, R-Ok., and Sanford Bishop, R-Ga., builds on the Cole-Bishop Amendment included in the House’s version of the Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. It would grandfather in existing electronic cigarettes so that they, just like Big Tobacco products, can stay on the market.
“This legislation preserves the FDA’s ability to regulate these products on part with cigarettes, grandfathers currently available products and then requires the FDA’s approval before any new product is introduced,” Rep. Cole said. “While there is disagreement about whether certain tobacco products should be regulated or not, there should be agreement that new regulations should apply to products moving forward, and not retroactively.”
The retroactive reach of this law is alarming. It would be near impossible and too costly for the industry to comply. Therefore, these products would become unavailable overnight in most retail stores. There is also uncertainty what would even be approved under these new regulations. Companies may spend money for approvals that will never be granted.
The Cigarette Smoking Reduction and Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act of 2017 was introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., on April 27, 2017. It would establish safety standards for e-liquids and vaping devices, without taking a prohibitionist approach that eliminates current popular products.
However, many health groups are opposed to these bills, falsely claiming they will remove FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids claims the bill introduced by Reps. Cole and Bishop bill would “exempt them from FDA review.”
This opposition campaign is built on false information and fears. Age regulation and strict advertisement laws are in place, just like cigarettes and those should be sufficient. Additional regulations would only be a burden on an industry being hit hard. Not to mention some of this regulation discourages vaping all together and loses sight of the healthy alternative it can be for those wishing to quit cigarettes.
No Exemptions For Vaping From FDA Oversight
The truth is neither bill exempts the vapor industry from FDA oversight. However, until another bill is introduced and has backings from both sides of the congressional floor this is all we have to work with. If either of these two bills gains momentum, it could help save the vaping industry from impending regulatory death.
The Hunter Bill requires e-liquid manufacturers to follow existing standards of the American E-liquid Manufacturers Standards Association (AEMSA) until permanent standards are created by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It requires all vapor products to use serial or lot numbers and device manufacturers to follow strict standards regarding electronics and batteries used in mods. This is a more logical approach to support those who are vaping for health reasons. It also gives time for sound policies to be formed based on science and not speculation.
“I started smoking when I was younger and quit. In Iraq and Afghanistan, as a U.S. Marine, I picked up the habit again. Vaping is what helped me to stop smoking and I know from the experiences of so many others that I’m not alone,” Rep. Hunter said. “It’s time that vaping is embraced and accepted for the benefits its offers—among them harm reduction.”
The bill prohibits advertising and marketing to minors which are important. It also permits the FDA to inspect manufacturing facilities, as well as impose penalties on those not in compliance with rules. Most importantly, this bill also prevents states and municipalities from defining e-liquid vapors as tobacco products and/or place more stringent restrictions on them than the federal government.
It also requires the FDA to rank nicotine products by comparative risk, and report them to Congress. This puts the focus back where it should be, on harm reduction and focusing on allowing individuals to choose what is best for them.
The Bottom Line for Vaping
These provisions are a threat to Big Tobacco and their friends in Congress. They have little concern for the impact FDA regulations will have on small business owners, their employees, and customers. They stand to profit if vapors return to being smokers. If obtaining vaping products becomes an impossible feat, many will, in fact, start smoking again.
These fears are voiced by business owners like Mary Ewing, the co-owner of Escape to Vape in Florida. “I’ll be out of business and many of our customers will go back to smoking.” This was her response when asked if FDA regulations are allowed to take effect. “First, I would have to let my employees go and, eventually, we would have to close the store.”
Mrs. Ewing popular brick-and-mortar vape store unintentionally doubles as a modern-day social club, a community center for former smokers of all ages. The family-owned business even invites customers to join them for Thanksgiving dinner at the store. Visitors and customers at Escape to Vape will hear the older give life advice to the younger. Mrs. Ewing supports the Hunter Bill, which along with the Cole-Bishop Bill.
The committee members have sent both bills to the Subcommittee on Health where they both still remain today. They are stalled currently and desperately need support. We can’t blindly go into 2018 letting businesses close while vapors are forced back to smoking, which is bad. Call your representatives today and urge them to support these bills.
The harmful effects of smoking are not debatable and the hazards to health from long-term vaping is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco. While cigarettes produce more than 10,000 chemicals, including more than 60 known human carcinogens. They kill more than 400,000 Americans each year, and many people are desperate to quit but can’t. Vaping provides an alternative, that is if the industry isn’t wiped out in August of 2018.