The FDA’s recent decision to delay implementation of the premarket tobacco application (PMTA) by four years is a huge and welcome reprieve for the vape industry. New FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has taken a few welcome and important steps: emphasizing a continuum of risk in nicotine delivery; working to destigmatize nicotine by recognizing its inherent part in a comprehensive solution; and taking steps to level the regulatory playing field between traditional tobacco products and innovative nicotine delivery systems. As a result, it seems like the voice of reason finally has a platform and that a constructive approach to vapor products is underway. However, now is not the time to become complacent; now, a couple of months after the announcement granting our industry a lifeline, it’s time for all of us to renew our commitment to active participation and advocacy, while responsible vape companies continue to meet their compliance obligations.
You can expect the tobacco control movement to ramp up its efforts and the backlash from the movement’s political allies to intensify. Immediately after Dr. Gottlieb’s announcement, a significant contingent of thirteen Democratic senators responded with a letter of complaint, repeatedly mentioning the “kid-appealing flavors” that are “actively marketed to children;” this comes in spite of the acknowledgement that Dr. Gottlieb offered our opposition in his very announcement, committing to reevaluating ways to keep vapor products away from children, “especially for those products marketed with obviously kid-appealing flavors,” he said. The FDA’s increasing attention on flavors, the prior surprising addition to the Cole-Bishop amendment requiring the FDA to set product standards governing “characterizing flavors,” and San Francisco’s decision to ban the sale of flavored e-liquids earlier this summer, all indicate that this is one of the new fronts being waged in the war on vaping, with potentially catastrophic implications for our industry. Furthermore, attacks on the local level are intensifying with the recent passage of anti-vaping laws in New York City and more localities expected to follow suit on flavor ban legislation.
You may be wondering how can you be of service at this critical juncture. Firstly, every vape company should support SFATA, the trade association representing our industry at the political level, ideally through membership. With its new tiered membership programs, your company can pay as little as 68 cents per day for membership, with more premium membership opportunities for those who can afford them; invaluable members-only benefits increase with your membership level and SFATA’s overall work is undeniably invaluable to our industry, especially over the past year with ramped-up efforts led by SFATA’s new executive director, Pamela Gorman, and SFATA’s federal lobbyist, Mike Hogan.
Secondly, every vape company should renew its commitment to responsible business practices, as well as loyalty to consumers and the industry as a whole, especially with regards to: trademark infringement, hardware clones that may not be technologically sound, and marketing that could be interpreted as targeting children. Unfortunately, we may see many companies attempt to continue selling without engaging in the compliance process, trying to profit as much as possible before ultimately exiting the industry; these businesses are not truly invested in the industry’s long-term survival and will therefore exhibit little incentive to comply or model responsible business practices. However, consumers have a lot of power to make a difference by exclusively supporting responsible, committed companies through their purchases. Furthermore, consumers can join CASAA free of charge and stay up to date on various calls to action to protect access to the products they depend upon. Of course, keep sharing your stories about why vaping is important to you, thereby helping to change the narrative around vapor technology.
While the FDA’s delayed implementation of some of the most damaging aspects of the deeming rule is incredibly positive, everyone has a role to play in working toward positive, meaningful revisions to the regulations. It’s all hands on deck and we will all benefit from working together.
Do you have suggestions of how to advocate for the vape industry? Let us know in the comments!
This slightly modified post originally appeared in issue 19 of Tokewell Magazine.