If something doesn’t change soon, vape shops across the country could be closing their doors in the next year. That “something” is the federal government’s rule on e-cigarettes, which classifies them as tobacco products and is about to start requiring expensive testing for any manufacturers who want to keep their vaping products on the market. In New York, vaping shop owners are concerned not only because of federal laws, but because of the state’s restrictive laws.
New York is considering banning vaping under its Clean Indoor Air Act. With no evidence that vapor from e-cigarettes harms the environment or people, supporters of the ban insist that it’s logical anyway. Chairman of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Dr. Andrew Hylan, acknowledges that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins than combustible cigarettes and are safer, but “probably not” completely safe. In that “spirit” he says, it makes sense to ban vaping wherever smoking is banned.
Meanwhile, vape shop owners and e-liquid manufactures across the country are greatly concerned by the Food and Drug Administration’s rules that are set to go into effect sometime after August of 2018. The rules had been set to take effect in that month, but were delayed after the failure of legislation to rewrite them. That legislation would have saved most of the e-cigarettes and liquids currently on the market by grandfathering in products manufactured prior to August of 2016, but it failed in the Senate. So as of now, the law states that whenever the rules take effect, all manufacturers will have to pay for testing to get FDA approval for any vaping product that was manufactured after 2007. That means virtually everything that is on the market because almost nothing that old is still being sold.
Even if the rule was to change and allow newer products to skip the expensive testing, from the point of the law’s enforcement onward, all new products would have to be tested. The cost is estimated to be anywhere from $500,000 upwards per product, which means each individual flavor of e-juice and each individual level of nicotine concentration juice would have to be tested. Most vape suppliers are small companies or even smaller mom and pop stores and could not afford this. If the law isn’t changed, most of these companies will probably be wiped out of business.
Vaping products sell well now and are quite popular with smokers, with many smokers reporting success in quitting with e-cigarettes when other methods like nicotine gums or patches failed them. One vape shop owner in Wheatfield, New York says that she was a 35-year smoker when she was diagnosed with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She still continued to smoke after the diagnoses, until her son encouraged her to try switching to vaping. She successfully quit smoking and says she is now off medications and mostly symptom-free.
But her vape shop customers will never hear her success story from her, because she is legally not allowed to tell them. The FDA forbids e-cigarette manufacturers or sellers to make any health claims about e-cigarettes to customers. The only thing a vape shop owner can do is refer people to information from other sources. Fortunately, that includes sources like the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA), which is a fact-based organization that promotes harm reduction.
Currently there are two pieces of pending federal legislation that could save vaping shops and save smokers from the detrimental effects of losing vaping as an option. The bipartisan Cole-Bishop Amendment that failed to pass the Senate is likely to be reintroduced at a later time. In addition, another bill seeks to change the FDA deeming rules and change the definition of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. CASSA supports both of these measures, though admits that the latter is less likely to pass. If it did, e-cigarettes could be classified as a unique product and be completely free from tobacco regulation and the stigma of being labeled a “tobacco product.” E-cigarettes contain no tobacco, even when they contain nicotine, but their opponents are determined to keep them out of the hands of young people and have thus far been quite successful at getting lawmakers to bend to their will. But things are slightly trending towards more acceptance – and common sense – in viewing e-cigarettes for what they really are: A far safer alternative that could save smokers’ lives and improve the public health of the entire nation.