Leaders in the vaping industry are hopeful President Donald Trump will help slash regulations threatening to put electronic cigarette vendors across the country out of business.
E-cigarette manufacturers and vendors faced a brutal year of new rules and regulations from the federal government and localities throughout many states. Health officials are pushing lawmakers to amend the laws governing traditional cigarettes to all vaping devices, despite evidence e-cigarettes eliminate 95 percent of the dangers associated with smoking, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke.
The biggest blow to the vaping industry in 2016 and the largest threat facing vendors and manufacturers going forward is a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized in May forcing all vape products to be regulated the same way as cigarettes. Many local vape vendors anticipate closure within the next two years if the rule goes through, but are increasingly confident the Trump Administration is likely to fight the new rules.
“The FDA will get less cooperation from the Administration on the expansion of regulatory regimes in the category," Jan Verleur, CEO of VMR and co-founder of V2, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I wouldn't be surprised if there was another look at the [FDA] deeming regulation. I know there are a lot of parties that are getting set up to challenge that regulation. I would think domestically with regards to regulation the outlook is quit good right now."
The FDA move requires e-cigarette vendors to submit a pre-market tobacco application for their products to the FDA for approval and is threatening to gut the domestic market. Vendors and manufactures have until Aug. 8, 2018 to submit the applications for their products and many are anticipating closure, due to the application costs, which range from $100,000 to $400,000 dollars each.
Even if the administration does not directly challenge the FDA rules, vapers are hoping for recourse in Congress. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the Cole-Bishop amendment, which would remove much of the onerous requirements from the FDA's decision and give the industry more time to respond to FDA requirements. The Senate is expected to vote on the amendment as part of a larger spending package and supporters are hopeful for its passage.
Despite the general optimism within the industry, there is one aspect of Trump's agenda that is leaving them concerned. Due to the high cost of labor in the U.S., vaping devices, like most electronics, are assembled oversees, largely in China.
“If there were to be trade tariffs imposed at some point in time in the next four years, that would be a negative because we are an electronics industry," Verleur, who oversees the largest independent vaporizer brand in the U.S., told TheDCNF. “Outside of that I would say on the home front the regulatory clouds may be parting for our industry. So as long as China tariffs are not imposed, I think it could be more good than bad that Mr. Trump has ascended to the presidency."
The industry will still face major opposition from health officials at the federal and state level, who argue the vapor exhaled by e-cigarette users is a threat to air quality and presents second-hand hazards to those exposed. The Tennessee Department of Health even issued an advisory Jan. 9 warning against using e-cigarettes to quit smoking.
Proponents of vaping argue critics are ignoring the positive impact the devices are having on current smokers.
“Our industry is one born out of innovation," said Verleur. “You would not have seen an industry go from nothing to in excess of $5 billion domestically in the flash of an eye if we were not solving some problem."