Speaking up

| November 2, 2016

The vapor industry faces an existential battle. By making their voices heard, companies and consumers can help turn the tide.

By Tony Abboud

Tony Abboud is national legislative director of the Vapor Technology Association.

Tony Abboud is national legislative director of the Vapor Technology Association.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was reflexively regulating the batteries, circuit boards, wires and constituents in e-liquids that constitute vapor technology products as if they were the same as those leafy tobacco products infused with 5,000 chemicals and wrapped in cigarette paper. “Tag—you’re tobacco!” the FDA said, as if that would make the public safer.

The FDA has (un)wittingly placed the future of anti-smoking vapor product innovation in the hands of the largest cigarette companies, and our American “public health” groups have cheered them on. As a result, the FDA’s regulations will directly endanger public health over the course of the next three years by yanking responsibly manufactured vapor products from the hands of adult smokers and replacing them with the cigarettes they had been trying to give up. The FDA acknowledges that its antiquated regulations will eliminate 99 percent of vapor products from the market within two years. Under any mindset, eliminating options for smokers who are trying to quit is not sound public policy.

Let’s be clear: As of Aug. 8, 2016, the FDA forbids every technology company in the vapor technology industry from offering any innovation or change to their products. As is the case with every other technology product, the technology innovates much more rapidly than government can regulate. Consider the short time it took to move from the iPod to the groundbreaking iPhone. Only a few years go by (sometimes only months) before new devices render old models obsolete. The same is true for vapor products. Right now, not a single change to any e-liquid or any battery or any component will be allowed without going through the FDA’s multiyear bureaucratic preapproval application process. In other words, no matter the significance of an innovation developed to enhance product safety, consumer safety or, for that matter, public safety, the FDA will place that safety innovation at the end of the incredibly long line of applications for keeping existing products on the market.

Not only has the FDA banned innovation; it has locked into the marketplace products that the FDA claims—without evidence—are potentially dangerous. In other words, the FDA is forcing consumers for the next three or more years to rely on products that it claims are dangerous while at the same time prohibiting any changes that could be made to make those products safer. Once again, this is not sound public policy.

However, we, as an industry, cannot simply sit back, complain about government regulation and fail to offer any solutions. Members of the Vapor Technology Association have been active across the globe in developing international product standards that protect children and ensure the safety and integrity of vapor products used by adult consumers. Now, we are bringing this constructive approach to Capitol Hill. We can and should do the same here in the United States, and several members of both parties in Congress took the first step toward a common-sense solution earlier this year.

The answer: Support Cole-Bishop

During a markup of the Agriculture, Rural Development FDA bill, U.S. Representatives Tom Cole and Sanford Bishop offered a bipartisan approach that would accomplish the goal of protecting small businesses and preserving the industry, while setting the stage for common-sense regulations that will protect youth and ensure the safety of consumers.

The Cole-Bishop amendment is the first pro-vapor piece of legislation to actually move in Congress, and we need to capitalize on that support and momentum. No other piece of legislation has the opportunity to move in the few days left that Congress is in session this year.

The language in the Cole-Bishop amendment is straightforward. First, it will keep thousands of small and mid-sized businesses, and their tens of thousands of employees, up and running by amending the “predicate date” from Feb. 15, 2007, to the effective date of the final deeming regulations. As importantly, the Cole-Bishop amendment does not limit the products regulated by the FDA. Contrary to misrepresentations made in the media and elsewhere, even with the Cole-Bishop amendment in place the FDA will have continuing authority to regulate all the newly deemed products on the market.

Second, the Cole-Bishop amendment will restrict youth marketing and youth access to vapor products by limiting newspaper, magazine or other print advertising of vapor products to adult publications, requiring face-to-face sales, and requiring the FDA to issue labeling regulations within 12 months to include “Keep Out of Reach of Children,” “Underage Sale Prohibited” and accurate nicotine content. This necessary provision represents to those who might not have otherwise supported our efforts that we are a responsible industry committed to the highest-quality products, as well as the safety of adult consumers and children.

Third, the Cole-Bishop amendment gives Congress the opportunity to address the issue of product safety by requiring the FDA to implement their rule-making on product standards for batteries within 12 months.

Finally, the Cole-Bishop amendment merely requires retailers that are not already registered at the state level, to register with the FDA.

Take action: #wearevapor

It is up to you. We will only be successful if we stick together and make our voices heard. The Vapor Technology Association is issuing a call to action to all of the vapor product manufacturers, wholesalers, small-business owners and entrepreneurs, and all the customers that they serve.

We urge everyone in the vapor community—industry leaders, manufacturers, small-business owners and consumers—to get behind this campaign that is already underway. Go to www.savevapor.org and get involved in our community-wide effort to save vapor. There you will be able to find your representative and participate in the #wearevapor campaign, a grass-roots effort to organize our community in a way to make your voices heard in Washington.

As we all know, social media can be a powerful tool if we all come together around this common objective. This is how our vapor community’s first and only social media campaign directed at Congress works:

Follow these three easy steps to make your voice heard:

Take a photo

Businesses: Take a photo in front of your place of business with your colleagues.

Customers: Take a photo in front of your nearest vape shop.

Tag your elected officials

At www.savevapor.org you can look up the Facebook and Twitter handles of your two senators and one representative by using the Find Your Federal Officials module. Jot down the handles so you can tag them in your posts and tweets.

Post your photo with a message

Post your photo to Twitter and Facebook using #wearevapor and #supportcolebishop with one of the simple messages suggested by our public affairs team.

All these details can be found at www.savevapor.org. Also, www.savevapor.org gives you many other advocacy tools to call your member of Congress and/or send him/her an email. Use social media as an avenue to make your position known. Write a letter for your local paper. Do your part to save the vapor industry now, before it is too late.

 

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