President Trump’s first 100 days are in full swing and he has – as expected – grabbed headlines across the world for a vast swathe of reasons. Equally in the news, is vaping regulation, since rules came into force in April last year and are putting pressure on the entire e-cigarette industry.
What happened to vaping last year?
In April 2016, e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers were struck a blow by the decision of the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which forces vaping products to be regulated in the same way as cigarettes. Despite evidence suggesting e-cigarettes eliminate up to 95% of the dangers associated with cigarettes.
What this means is that the FDA wants e-cigarette retailers to submit a premarket tobacco application for all their products for approval by Aug 8th, 2018; but each application is forecast to cost between US$100,000 and US$400,000 and could cripple small vendors, potentially wiping out 99% of the industry. The fear is that the US e-cigarette market will reduce so much that it’ll end up in the hands of big tobacco companies who can afford the costs of these new regulations.
Clive Bates, former director of the United Kingdom’s Action on Smoking and Health says: ‘Perverse tobacco policy is failing the American public and will soon destroy thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that are part of the solution, not part of the problem.’
Bates has co-authored a report with David Sweanor of Ottawa University, and Eli Lehrer, President of the R Street Institute entitled ‘Eight tobacco harm reduction proposals for the government‘.
The authors suggest a series of reforms, including putting the implementation of the deeming rule on hold and changing the Tobacco Control Act predicate date to Aug. 8, 2016, meaning existing nicotine products that don’t contain tobacco can stay on the market.
What is hoped to change regarding vaping regulation?
Bates’ report suggests addressing widespread policy failure with the following eight proposals:
1- Seize the huge opportunity presented by low-risk nicotine products
2- Cancel the FDA deeming rule before it destroys the U.S. vaping market
3- Establish a standards-based regime for low-risk nicotine products
4- Use new labels to inform consumers about relative risk
5- Stop using the public health test to protect the cigarette trade
6- Restore honesty and candour to public health campaigns
7- Refocus tobacco science on the public interest not bureaucratic expansion
8- Challenge vapour and smokeless prohibitions under WTO rules
This, coupled with Trump’s campaign of promising deregulation, might just be enough to save many in the vaping industry in the US. Although he’s never explicitly shown support for vaping, he has said that around 70% of Federal regulations could go under his Presidency – much of which he claims is ‘just stopping businesses from growing‘. And Trump is not alone – among many in his new government is Duncan Hunter, a major Congressional ally and one of the President’s oldest supporters, he also happens to be a big supporter of the vaping industry.
What might realistically happen?
Washington DC is notorious for being a legal labyrinth, but with any luck for the vaping community there are two things to hope for:
1- The passing of the ‘Cole-Bishop Amendment‘ that aims to protect all vendors from potential closure by taking away the need to make costly applications.
2- A ‘Vapor Products’ bill – possibly the most ideal situation that would mean vaping products are treated entirely separately from tobacco.
The imperative, argues Clive Bates, is to change ‘the incentive structures in tobacco-related research to stress objectivity in the public interest, not to justify expanded bureaucratic intervention.’ We can only hope the President shares this view, and that the FDA regulations will be oveturned.
With the clock ticking until August 8, 2018, there is a lot of work to do to save the industry from almost collapse – it’s going to be a tough year, for now, we need to keep an eye on any sign from the US President that he’s willing to come to the rescue of e-cigarettes, and heed the warnings of the likes of Clive Bates.