From the Desk of the General Counsel
It is my great pleasure and wonderful privilege to bring you the very first edition of the General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer’s blog.
Let’s set the stage, shall we: to be an effective communicator, one must first understand and then seek to be understood.
As with all new acquaintances, a brief introduction is in order to set the tone for our time together.
My History with the E-cig
Nicopure Labs, makers of Halo and eVo, located in AWESOME Tampa, Florida, is my new, happy home as of August of this year. My experience spans 12 years of domestic and international E-cigarette and tobacco regulation, having held both in-house and law firm positions in several countries and having earned a few FDA-related notches on the belt.
My first EVER encounter with E-cigarettes was in a hotel room in Vienna in 2007, while watching a late night German language channel. They looked an awful lot like cigarettes and, shockingly, cigarette advertising was supposed to be banned on TV in Europe—I knew that well, since I was a lawyer specializing in that industry. What was the deal?, I wondered.
So I started to explore the E-cig world, mostly on my own, since the product was not yet readily available in stores. The E-cigs I finally managed to get my hands on were pretty cheap-looking and tasted bad. Well, if you believed that the tobacco industry started to worry right away, you would be wrong. Nobody thought much of this product in its infancy, other than to enforce swiftly against trademark infringements if the E-cigs claimed they tasted like specific cigarette brands.
A couple of years later, as the product was making its way into the US, there was almost full-blown hysteria against it among the World Health Organization, FDA and other countries’ health authorities. In 2009, the FDA tried to block importation of E-cigs as unauthorized drugs while at the same time it started its regulatory oversight of the conventional tobacco industry. In 2010, a federal court eventually told the FDA, look, you, FDA, cannot regulate these products as medicinal, but if you want, you can regulate them as tobacco products, provided that the nicotine or some other ingredient in E-cigs is derived from tobacco.
Other countries were quick to either quote the FDA or the WHO’s speculative and rather unfounded concerns with E-cigs and outright ban them. Such is society’s fear of change that it seemed easier to act defensively and ban the product than to pause, think and understand the opportunities it presents.
I don’t know about you, but I expect just a tad more out of governments and their health watchdogs.
As the E-cig debate was heating up—and vaping was more visible—a couple of years later a few of us lawyers took to fighting some of the FDA’s unreasonable Tobacco Control Act requirements (measures that will eventually apply to vaping products), or to be politically correct, “worked with the FDA.” It’s a mostly tedious yet sometimes spectacularly creative job, but somebody’s got to do it.
My View on Vaping
Though never a smoker myself, I grew up surrounded by heavy smokers; a few eventually quit after several painful attempts. Personally, I will never question—and always fight for—the right of adults to engage in lawful, even if unhealthy or unpopular, behavior and choices. I do not believe it is the government’s right to tell us what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, what treatments to take, and how to enjoy ourselves. I may choose to live on water, nuts and raspberries, but I will never allow others to be judged or penalized for their different lifestyle choices.
The line between an intrusive state and Orwell’s 1984 revisionism is all too fine. I do not believe the state should protect me from myself, in particular in the privacy of my home. I do believe, however, fervently, that an enlightened state must pursue avenues to enhance the well-being of its citizens, and the state also has an obligation to inform and communicate what constructive options we have to improve our quality of life.
Well, enough of this serious talk! The simple truth is vaping is here to stay, whether or not this government or that government likes it. And it is a good thing. It forces us as a society to step up and explore alternative tobacco harm reduction avenues. And it forces manufacturers to compete under enhanced societal and regulatory scrutiny for a better, safer, more consumer-focused product that, for a change, can also do some good.
Welcome to the vaping revolution!
Amid the revolution, after a few years advising on E-cigarette regulatory issues, I came to Nicopure Labs persuaded by two sets of circumstances: first, its unapologetic, transparent, unconditional commitment to ingredient purity, product quality, responsible, domestic manufacturing and spectacular, steady growth; and second (I know you guys will read this but I want to say it anyway!), the open, friendly, unassuming and serene perseverance of Nicopure Labs’ founders, in spite of so many regulatory unknowns, their calm and well-substantiated belief that we shall overcome anything that comes upon us, and their humbling trust in my abilities to lead the way successfully among regulatory traps and burdens.
And, again, I don’t know about you, but when someone shows me such unconditional trust, I now pretty much feel the responsibility to be Superwoman and save the world—or regulators from themselves—or at least change things for the better. No self-imposed pressure there!
One of the great opportunities we have is not only to listen to and to talk with consumers but also listen to listen to and talk with other stakeholders. So what can you expect in future blogs from the General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer’s desk? First, regulatory updates, news about vaping science and brief analyses on important matters for our industry. Second, but more important to me—questions to you and from you that I will try to incorporate in my messages as appropriate. Remember, however, these are just personal opinions, not legal advice.
And last but not least, I hope to bring into our conversation a few world renowned harm reduction advocates, who also happen to be very much pro-vaping and surprise you from time to time with guest interviews.
I’m very excited to interact with you all! I look forward to an effervescent exchange of ideas.
“Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.” ― Baruch Spinoza
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