On Friday, November 22 the White House is hosting a meeting on vaping. Officials released a statement indicating that the meeting includes a “diverse group of advocacy, industry, non-profits, medical associations, and state officials.” The stage is set for a showdown at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
President Trump is famous for gathering people of varying opinions and having them fight it out in a contest of ideas. Anti-vaping groups are incredibly well-funded. As Paul Blair from Americans for Tax Reform uncovered, three of the major anti-vaping lobby groups are funded to the tune of $1.2 billion. Although the anti-vaping groups wouldn’t know a mod from a pod, they effectively wield influence over media and politicians.
The American vaping community has some representation, however much of the vapor industry is comprised of independent companies and vape shop owners. We are essentially a ragged band of small businesses, passionate vapers, and advocates going up against a well-oiled, experienced lobbying regime.
The mainstream media would be well-advised to do some homework about the actual power dynamics of the struggle to save vaping. Incredibly, the media thinks that the vaping advocates are the lobbyists!
Here is a sample:
- Bloomberg News Tweeted “The Trump administration has retreated from cracking down on vaping after coming under pressure from lobbyists”
- The New York Times reported that President Trump is resisting vaping regulations because of pushback from lobbyists.
- Congresswoman Craig says the Trump administration sides with vaping lobbyists.
I certainly have been active in advocacy and defending vaping. Apparently, that makes me a lobbyist. Well, that's the first time I've ever been called a lobbyist!
What we are actually engaged in is exercising our right to seek redress of grievances. The American vaping community is the grassroots taking on the swamp. We are not Big Tobacco. In fact, a flavor ban could wipe out all e-cigs except Big Tobacco brands. And President Trump is not “caving to lobbyists.” President Trump is doing is his job. He is listening to stakeholders and searching for the best path forward.
Real Solutions to Underage Vaping
There are two main reasons why vaping has come under intense fire in the last three months:
- Increase in minors experimenting with vaping (past 30-day use) from 11% in 2017 to 28% in 2019.
- An outbreak of lung illness first blamed on e-cigs but now evidence shows the real issue is illicit THC oil made with vitamin E acetate by drug dealers.
Flavors are not the cause of increased underage vaping trends. The real cause is the proliferation of 50mg salt nicotine pods sold in c-stores, a trend pioneered by JUUL that exploded due to counterfeit Chinese products. A 50mg nicotine vapor product causes an instant and powerful “buzz.” It’s not the flavors, it is the nicotine.
There is an impression that the American vaping community does not care about underage vaping. Nothing could be further from the truth. At my company, the average customer is 55+ and started smoking as a teen. I started smoking as a teen. Nicotine addiction that begins in the teens becomes a lifetime habit. We take this issue very seriously.
I have submitted policy proposals to various officials and agencies in addition to working with the Vapor Technology Association. We understand that the meeting will be centered on potential carve-outs to allow specialty vapor retailers to continue to sell flavors. That is a good start.
Here is a list of real solutions we submitted for consideration:
- Must be 21 to purchase.
- Limit nicotine to 24mg for C-stores.
- Limit to 50mg salt for vape shops and online retailers with age verification.
- Ban counterfeit products from China.
- Implement marketing standards.
- Close loopholes by banning sales on non-age verified third-party marketplaces like DHGate, Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, etc.
- Require all tobacco and vapor products to be behind a counter or in a locked display accessible only by an employee.
- Require the use of third-party age verification technology for all online sales and all brick and mortar sales.
- Vapor retailers display signage indicating (a) “Unaccompanied Minors Are Not Allowed on Premises” or (b) “Products are Not for Sale to Minors” or (c) “Underage Sale Prohibited.”
- End “Straw Man” and bulk sales.
I also want to point out that online age verification technology is the most secure means of verifying age. Our technology utilizes multiple layers of age verification in addition to artificial intelligence evaluation and records matching. Age verification technology cannot be bartered with. Nor will a fake ID work.
There is a path forward that protects access for adults and deters underage vaping. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. Smoking kills 480,000 Americans every year. We can offer adult smokers an alternative to cigarettes. And we can protect our kids.
Dray Moorman is the founder and CEO of Mig Vapor. After attending Texas State University, he built a number of successful companies in his business career. He started Mig Vapor almost a decade ago and built one of the largest independent American vaping companies. A former smoker himself, Dray is a life-long entrepreneur who is dedicated to the fight against smoking. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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