In May 2016, the Food and Drug Administration announced new rules that bring the electronic cigarette industry under stringent rules and regulations that threaten its existence. Unless legislation is passed to stop the rules from becoming enacted, the FDA stands to put thousands of businesses under. Many small businesses that employ locals will have to close because they won’t be able to afford the cost of getting their products past regulatory approval. And because the industry is considered high-risk in the velocity merchant services e-commerce category, there’s an adverse economic effect on providers of high-risk merchant accounts. For now, the future of the industry is up in the air, as it remains to be seen what legal or legislative actions might be mounted to push back against the FDA.
Image via Flickr by Vaping360
One of the official reasons behind the regulations is underage smoking. There are reports of an uptick in teens smoking of around 16 percent via the use of e-cigarettes. What’s not discussed is whether the teens would have found their way to traditional tobacco cigarettes instead of e-cigarettes. But because the FDA has a history of working against teen smoking, it’s aiming at the e-cigarette industry to make it harder for teens to obtain vaping devices and “vape juices,” nicotine-containing liquids used to fill e-cigarettes.
Another reason is that there is simply no regulation of the products currently on the market. Devices and juice alike have no regulatory oversight of their manufacture. The FDA wants equipment manufacturers to apply for approval as if their products are medical devices. It’s possible that device manufacturers will leave the U.S. market entirely rather than pay upwards of a million dollars to get their devices approved.
Some people feel that big tobacco lobbied the FDA to apply these harsh measures. The tobacco industry has entered the e-cigarette market with limited success. But it has the funding to pay for applications to the FDA if its products become the consumer’s only choice.
The future is very uncertain for the e-cigarette industry. Many adults consider vaping an excellent tool in the fight to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, and untold numbers have done so successfully. If the e-cigarette industry gets stamped out by FDA regulations, it will leave the mainstream and go underground. Those who are resourceful enough will still find legal means to buy e-cigarette devices and make their e-liquid. But those who want to quit smoking and find that medications, gums, and patches don’t work will be left hanging. The current easy access to e-cigarette products translates into more people who transition away from tobacco cigarettes and eventually stop smoking altogether.
The industry estimates that it has two years to survive before the FDA regulations fully take effect if nothing else is done. After that, vaping manufacturers must either pay the money to apply for approval from the FDA or go out of business. And if they don’t have the money, they will disappear along with all the retail companies that have sprung up to sell their products.