2016: The Year Everything Changed for Vaping
There’s no question that 2016 will be remembered for consequential world events and the loss of many beloved public figures. For vaping enthusiasts and retailers, it will also be a year remembered for widespread and often excessive regulatory actions in the United States and beyond. Here are just a few highlights, good and bad, from of the biggest vaping-related stories of the past year, as well as some tips on how you can help steer the direction of the e-cigarette dialogue in 2017.
United States Developments at the Federal Level
In January, the Vapor Technology Association (VTA) was launched with a mission focused on promoting greater public health through smart regulations and responsible public policies, transforming the public debate, and keeping the vaping industry alive. Lobbying the federal government plays a large role in these efforts.
In April, Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) and Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) co-authored an amendment to an agriculture and rural development appropriations bill that would change the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) anticipated “Deeming Rule” effective date from February 15th, 2007 to August 8th, 2016. The bill has yet to receive a vote.
The Cole-Bishop Amendment notwithstanding, in May the FDA issued its long-expected announcement that e-cigarettes would be federally regulated in a manner similar to that of traditional combustible tobacco cigarettes. The Deeming Rule would include prohibiting the sale of all e-liquids and vaping devices to anyone under the age of 18, among other restrictions. The most onerous of the regulations required manufacturers to submit their products to a lengthy and cost-prohibitive approval process, and recategorized retailers as manufacturers if they exceeded a certain threshold of service to customers.
Immediately after the Deeming Rule was published, Nicopure Labs, LLC challenged the FDA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A decision is pending.
Just three months later, on August 8th, the Deeming Rule went to into effect. For the three years following that date, vaping-related businesses must come into full compliance by meeting an ongoing series of deadlines.
In November, the Housing and Urban Development Department announced that it will ban smoking in all public housing beginning in 2017, a rule that will impact more than 1.2 million households nationwide. Curiously, e-cigarettes were exempted from this ban. Considering the FDA’s stance on vaping products, federal government agencies seem unable to come up with a consensus on any potential dangers posed by e-cigarettes.
Also in November, Donald Trump became the president-elect of the United States. Though he has yet to take office and the impact of his presidency remains to be seen, many believe his administration will be beneficial to the vaping industry.
Post-election enthusiasm in the American vaping community was somewhat dampened the following month, when the U.S. Surgeon General released a report on the use of e-cigarettes by youth. While all reputable retailers agree e-cigarettes do not belong in the hands of young people, the report fails to acknowledge the unmistakable contribution to increased smoking cessation and the comparative reduced harm presented by vaping products over conventional combustible tobacco cigarettes.
The Surgeon General’s report is markedly at odds with a report issued by the Royal College of Physicians earlier in the year, which stated that e-cigarettes appear to be effective in helping people quit smoking and, further, that traditional cigarettes are 95% more harmful. (See more in “Developments Around the World” below.)
With physicians of different nationalities arriving at such disparate conclusions, one wonders if public health is the only factor influencing their reports, and if political pressures and motivations that are specific to their countries of origin play a role in their respective viewpoints.
United States Developments at the State Level
In 2016 states coast to coast enacted new laws and restrictions on vaping, typically lumping e-cigarettes in with traditional combustible ones, as the FDA did.
January saw Hawaii become the first state to raise its legal smoking age to 21.
In June, California followed suit.
As of December 2016, many counties and cities nationwide have also implemented similar measures.
In October, Pennsylvania enacted a tax which would require vaping retailers to pay 40% of the value of their inventory to the state by year’s end. Small businesses would be most affected, and some in fact closed their doors almost immediately.
Possibly having not fully considered the economic impact of the new law, some lawmakers soon developed “legislator’s remorse.” Pennsylvania Rep. Wheeland introduced HB 2342, which would repeal the 40% tax and replace it with a simple 5-cent-per-milliliter tax. HB 2342 is currently making its way through the Pennsylvania House.
Developments Around the World
In April, the U.K.-based Royal College of Physicians issued an encouraging report called Nicotine Without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction. Among the conclusions the report revealed were:
- Provision of the nicotine that smokers are addicted to without the harmful components of tobacco smoke can prevent most of the harm from smoking.
- E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking (emphasis in original).
- The hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco (emphasis in original).
- Available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely.
May saw the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), previously entered into force in May 2014, declared valid by the European Court of Justice and become applicable in EU Member States. The TPD governs the manufacture, marketing, and sale of tobacco products within the European Union. While restrictive in its own right, the TPD is far more favorable to the vaping industry than the FDA’s Deeming Rule.
Outside the influence of the EU, many other impactful changes came under consideration.
In April, a consortium of e-cigarette retailers, suppliers, and manufacturers in the Philippines formed the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association, or PECIA. The group’s stated purpose is to establish a basic level of regulation in the country, which has had little in the way of laws governing e-cigarette sales.
In Australia, where e-liquids are legal but must be nicotine-free, an independent consumer organization called the New Nicotine Alliance Australia (NNAA) made a request in August that the government allow e-cigarettes with a preset maximum nicotine level. The organization has stated that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to tobacco that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of smokers in Australia. Regulators are currently reviewing the proposal and should issue a decision by March 2017.
Action Items for 2017
If you’re interested in helping to influence vaping legislation and industry action in 2017, here are a few things you should do:
Stay informed! Sign up for news alerts about vaping legislation in your state through news websites or Google.
Make your voice heard! Contact state and local government officials, tell them that you vape, and share your positive experiences with them. If you own a vape-related business, let them know how restrictive laws will impact your continued operations.
Realize the strength in numbers! Join advocacy groups such as the VTA, which has been developing and implementing a cohesive lobbying and public affairs strategy to defend the vapor industry and transform the public debate on vaping since early 2016.
The 120,000-member Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA), an IRS 501(c)(4) nonprofit that organizes activist efforts and events, conducts public relations campaigns, gets involved in research, and sets standards guiding vapers on safe products, is another organization to consider.
Finally: Don’t give up! A lot of people are in the fight to protect vaping, and it’s far from over. 2017 can be remembered as the year vapers and the vaping industry turned the tide.
The opinions and other information contained in these blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Nicopure Labs LLC, owner of the Halo and HaloCigs marks.
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