WOOD RIVER — Federal regulations enacted last week targeted at electronic cigarettes could have dire effects on the industry — and on the health of some converted smokers, according to a local vaping advocate.
3D Vapor LLC owner Dan Reinke, who operates vape shops in Edwardsville and East Alton and runs a distribution warehouse in Wood River that serves more than 3,300 accounts in 21 countries, said Food and Drug Administration regulations that will require all e-cigarette products that have been on the market since early 2007 to be approved by the administration will effectively eliminate the market for vapor products. The legislation, which went into effect on Aug. 8, gives manufacturers of vapor products two years — until Aug. 8, 2018 — to submit costly production applications or to cease and desist.
Reinke said that legislation will lead 99.9 percent of the industry to shut down, unable to afford the cost of the application process with little guarantee an application will even ensure the product’s approval from the FDA.
“We’re all for safe manufacturing practices, we’re all for testing the products to make sure that people are not ingesting anything harmful,” Reinke, a member of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, said. “But a lot of the stuff that they’ve done is insane.”
At the time the legislation was finalized in May, American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer hailed it as a “long-awaited step to protect public health.” Numerous health advocates lauded the move, which included prohibiting sales of e-cigarettes to people 18 and younger. Also covered under the legislation is age verification for online sales, prohibition of free samples and forbidding retailers from modifying customers’ products, such as helping them set up or troubleshoot an e-cigarette device.
Pro-vapers see the legislation as unnecessarily overreaching. Nicopure Labs, one of the foremost e-liquid manufacturers in the United States, filed a federal lawsuit shortly after the legislation was announced to try to stop the regulations.
“We are committed to responsible manufacturing based on superior product standards and stringent quality requirements,” Nicopure Labs Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Jason del Guidice said in a statement. “FDA’s rule does not protect the consumer from low-quality products; instead, it places a disproportionate and unjustified regulatory burden on compliant companies such as ourselves, who are determined to drive the industry to the highest standards of quality and innovation.”
Reinke cited a Royal College of Physicians report that studied the effects of e-cigarettes and found that the hazard to health arising from long-term vapor inhalation available today is unlikely to exceed 5 percent of the harm from smoking tobacco. The report also surmised that concerns of e-cigarettes acting as a gateway to smoking among minors is largely unfounded, saying there was no evidence vaping led to smoking to any significant degree in the United Kingdom.
Reinke, who said he’s never sold to underage kids in his shops and said other shops in the area exercise similar practices — Alton’s Cloud 9 Vapor Lounge has a sign on the door stating customers “must be 18 to enter” and there are “no sales to minors” — said the new legislation could actually be bad for public health. There are an estimated 9 million vapers in the United States, as compared to roughly 40 million smokers, Reinke said, and if the law doesn’t change, many of those vapers will be driven back to more hazardous vices.
“If we can get the predicate date changed to Aug. 8, 2016, at least the products that are currently on the market can remain on the market,” Reinke said. “Otherwise, all of these 9 million people that have stopped smoking traditional cigarettes (and are) using vaporizers, are going to be going back to smoking cigarettes, or finding another alternative.”
Vaping advocates have called on the government to tweak the new laws with what has been named the Cole-Bishop Amendment, an amendment that would change the predicate date for enforcement from Feb. 15, 2007, to Aug. 8, 2016. That would allow existing products to be grandfathered in, requiring only products introduced after Aug. 8, 2016, to be subjected to the FDA’s pre-market tobacco product application.