New FDA Proposals Could Snuff Out Some E-Cigarette “Vaping” Shops

Local business owners share their thoughts on the future of the e-cigarette industry.

There’s a new threat facing the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and the small “vaping” shops that sell them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced plans to embark on a two-year process that will regulate both the sale and ingredients of e-cigarettes, making it more challenging for businesses to capitalize on the vaping trend.

The FDA’s proposals mirror bans that are currently in place for regular cigarettes and tobacco products, by requiring more visible warning labels, restricting the freedom of marketing and advertising, and enforcing pre-market approval before businesses can sell e-cigarettes. Here in Westchester, shops are currently self-regulating by placing warning labels on their products and not selling to minors. So what will the FDA proposals mean for the burgeoning e-cigarette industry? We spoke to three local e-cigarette business owners to find out what they think of the new bans and proposals, and whether the restrictions could cause their businesses to go up in smoke.

Cheryl Richter
Co-Owner, Cherry Vape, Port Chester

What do you think the impact of these proposed regulations will be on your business?

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Richter: These restrictions are basically a de facto ban on my business. Right now we follow what are considered self-regulations by the industry. We don’t sell to minors, we have childproof caps, and we have ingredients, nicotine content, and warnings on our labels. What will affect our business is the part [of the new proposals that mandate] substantial equivalency and pre-market approval by the FDA. Those are rules that were put in place by the FDA as a curative measure to keep tobacco firms from rolling out more [harmful] products. Certainly the tobacco industry hasn’t been able to bring anything new to market since the FDA took over regulating them.

In what ways would the regulations restrict goals that you have for your business?

Richter: The regulations would basically take what we do off the market… Also, we manufacture parts and accessories for e-cigarettes and vaping products, right in New Rochelle—we’ve been doing that since 2009. We distribute them globally. We didn’t just open the store in February because we thought we would make money on it; we bring jobs to this area. We started with the two of us, my partner and I, and we have 10 people now. Our goal was to open at least five more stores in Westchester within the next two years. The regulations would prevent us from doing that.

Can you summarize your opinion of the proposed regulations?

Richter: My opinion of the regulations is that they are not in the best interest of the public’s health… [The FDA’s proposals] will basically regulate us out of business and take our products off the market. One of the biggest things the public needs to know is that the entrepreneurs who created this industry and moved it forward and made the technology are small entrepreneurs—we are not big tobacco. We are anti-tobacco. We should not be regulated as tobacco.

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Luciano Manente
co-owner, Honest Vapor, Harrison

What do you think the impact of these proposed regulations will be on your business?

Manente: I think it’s pretty much set up as a de facto ban for small businesses, forcing us to carry lower-quality liquids. The way the application process is designed is so extreme, and it’s not even guaranteed approval. [To legally market a new tobacco product, companies must receive a written order from the FDA permitting the marketing of the product.] The costs are so high: a business like mine, we have about 20 manufactured flavors in about five different strengths, so [the cost of applying] would be $15,000 per flavor, per strength.

The industry has been criticized for marketing to minors with some of the flavors used. What do the FDA proposals say about that?

Manente: [The FDA has] mentioned that currently they’re not banning flavors but it is something they’re going to revisit. Without flavors, it really just won’t work Most people will vape anything from ‘peach cobbler’ to ‘cotton candy’. Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we don’t like those flavors. So, are they telling me if I make a liver flavored e-liquid it’s okay because kids don’t like it?

Can you summarize your opinion of the proposed regulations?

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Manente: I think that we need regulations but they need to be regulated accordingly.  [The FDA] is lumping us in with the tobacco products because the nicotine is derived from tobacco… but [e-cigarettes are] not a tobacco product; they are a nicotine product. It’s like someone saying soda is a coffee product. It’s not…  And e-cigarettes, even though they’re blowing up, are run by small companies. If they pass these regulations as is, it’ll kill small businesses in the industry. It’ll really just gift wrap it and give it to big tobacco.

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