If there is one constant in the history of government, it is that established governments invariably seek more and more control over the lives of their citizens as time goes by. Even in free nations, politicians and their lobbyist allies cannot seem to escape the natural inclination to exercise naked power for power’s sake. One example of this tendency is the current move by the United States Food and Drug Agency (FDA) to regulate electronic cigarettes. With regulation now a virtual certainty, it is vital to ask the one question most politicians never publicly address: how will the upcoming FDA regulations affect vaping?
Under the new regulatory guidelines proposed by the FDA, the agency’s power to regulate tobacco products would be expanded to include electronic cigarettes. Despite the fact that even the federal government apparently recognizes that these products contain no tobacco, officials are determined to adopt a fictional definition of e-cigarettes that pretends that they are, in fact, tobacco. As absurd as that might sound to the average American, it is a strategy that has the FDA well-poised to obtain approval for its proposal.
If that happens, the end result is that virtually all e-juices and electronic cigarette products will need to obtain FDA approval before they can be sold in the marketplace. The agency has included retro activity in the proposal, ensuring that all vaping products manufactured since 2007 will have to go through this review. The only exceptions would be for those recent products that can prove that they are “substantially equivalent” to the types of products sold prior to that year – which means that there will be almost no exceptions granted.
Late last year, an effort by Congressional Republicans to exempt the vaping industry from these punitive regulations fell short when Democrats blocked the measure. Now, many analysts believe that federal regulation is all but inevitable.
The Effects on the Industry
The effects on the vaping industry are being effectively ignored by the current administration, as it zealously pursues expanded regulatory powers throughout the economy. The FDA’s rhetoric has been primarily targeted toward large tobacco firms – the ones that continue to manufacture most of the disposable, e-cigarettes that are similar in appearance to tobacco cigarettes. In fact, Democrat talking points have continued to reference big tobacco companies as well. That is, however, more than a little disingenuous.
The fact is that there are thousands of small business jobs in the United States that are dependent upon this industry remaining healthy and vibrant. Moreover, the big tobacco company reference simply lacks credibility when you consider that many vapers are already moving past the cigarette lookalikes, and are turning to the newer vaporizers that offer more flexibility and customization in both design and flavor.
So, what happens to the industry if these regulations pass? New regulations always place an undue burden on the smallest companies since they are the ones that can least afford legal representation and the high costs associated with federal regulatory compliance. That means that thousands of mom and pop vape shops and smaller manufacturers will face the possibility of losing their businesses altogether.
While some might dismiss those concerns, the fact is that these small businesses are already under tremendous strain. At the state and local level, many government officials are already targeting the industry with restrictions on sales, prohibitions about where they can be used, and higher taxes. Other bills under consideration include new licensing requirements for vape shops and laws governing package labeling. Everywhere, it seems, legislators are actively trying to maintain the pretense that electronic cigarettes are no different than tobacco products.
The Effect on Consumers
As difficult as these proposed regulations could be for the vaping industry, their impact on consumers could be even more devastating. Despite what vaping opponents would have you believe, studies that have examined the health dangers of electronic cigarette usage have consistently demonstrated that they are far safer than traditional tobacco products. Moreover, they are far less expensive than tobacco products, and that makes them an attractive alternative to actual tobacco products and their known hazards.
The problem is twofold:
- By ignoring the fact that e-cigarettes are less hazardous than tobacco products, the government is helping to perpetuate a lack of understanding among consumers – and potentially placing smokers’ lives at risk; and
- The zealousness with which officials are seeking to expand taxes on these products reduces one of their most attractive features and may ultimately cause many smokers to continue using risky tobacco products.
In short, these new regulatory measures from the FDA could have an effect that is precisely the opposite of what the government claims it seeks. The whole goal behind regulation of tobacco is to protect the public. Given that electronic cigarettes are demonstrably safer than tobacco, a regulatory scheme that threatens the industry’s viability does nothing to promote that goal.