A community in Wisconsin is getting help from local officials to fight unfair FDA rules that could wipe e-cigarette retailers out of business. Johnson Creek Enterprises, a major e-liquid retailer, was informed by its local village board that the board will help them challenge the FDA.
The FDA decided in August 2016 that all e-cigarette products manufactured after 2007 will need to have official approval in order to be sold. The rules cover tobacco products, which e-cigarettes are considered to be because of a separate FDA decision. The rules also require warning labels and forbid sales to people under the age of 18.
Johnson Creek has no problem with the age-restriction and warning labels, in fact, like most e-cigarette product retailers, they have always voluntarily implemented these things before they were required. The problem is that the approval requirement for products manufactured after 2007 involves most e-cigarette and vaping products on the market, and most e-cigarette businesses are small and not able to afford the price tag associated with getting FDA approval.
The cost of getting FDA approval is mostly in testing. It’s expensive; the president of Johnson Creek, Heidi Braun, estimates that it would cost about $1 million for each product her company would need to submit for approval.
The FDA’s “2007” rule is one of its most unfair and illogical rulings on e-cigarettes to date, because it could hurt small businesses while at the same time actually help tobacco companies. The major tobacco companies are putting vaping products on the market, and they are the only vaping manufacturers with the financial ability to get the approval the FDA is demanding.
The village board of Hartland, WI agreed to back Johnson Creek Enterprises in its fight. Local governments do have the option of intervening when federal rules affect local businesses. Board trustee Rick Stevens is an e-cigarette user who quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes. He used the step-down method by starting with nicotine e-cigarettes then gradually reducing the amount of nicotine until he was able to vape no-nicotine e-liquid. He says he doesn’t understand “the big problem” with e-cigarettes, seeming to refer to the heavy regulations and restrictions. The board voted unanimously to help Johnson Creek.
According to the Johnson Creek website, it was the first company in the U.S. to sell e-liquid. It has customers in more than 120 countries and sells to some large e-cigarette manufacturers, including Blu and Fin. In order to visit the Johnson Creek website, a visitor must enter their exact date of birth. If the date is less than 18 years ago, they will be booted to Google. Though this is not a foolproof method of keeping minors from purchasing, it is the type of voluntary restriction that most small e-cigarette businesses have been employing for years. In addition, Johnson Creek began restricting sales to people 21 and over in January. The site has a nicotine warning at the bottom of each page, lists ingredients on product labels and uses tamper-proof and child-resistant packaging on its products.