By Chris Mellides
When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its proposed rule to extend its regulatory authority to include vapor products back in 2014, those that were wise enough noticed that trouble loomed just around the corner.
The day would come when the vapor product industry would have a powerful government agency to answer to, and yet things generally chugged along unabated, and it was business as usual for many vape vendors and members of the vaping public.
Then May 5, 2016 arrived, and with it the FDA finally released its deeming regulations in the form of a 499-page document asserting that vapor products, along with cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco, were all considered to be in the same category as cigarettes and therefore subject to regulation under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
The language in this final rule was very similar to the version announced in 2014, and the first wave of regulations was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 8, just 90 days following publication of the deeming regs.
Suddenly, everybody from big name manufacturers to small mom and pop vape shops and the customers that frequent them began to wonder just how bad things could get for an industry that allowed many to achieve success in small business and allowed countless others to finally kick their nasty smoking habits.
Provisions that took effect Aug. 8 affected vape shops and how small business owners and their employees had to conduct themselves.
There was to be no sale to people under 18 years of age, whether in person or online, with age verification required. There could also be no more distribution of free samples, and no vending machine sales would be permitted nationwide. Additionally, vape shop employees were discouraged from troubleshooting
THE DAY WOULD COME WHEN THE VAPOR PRODUCT INDUSTRY WOULD HAVE A POWERFUL GOVERNMENT AGENCY TO ANSWER TO, AND YET THINGS GENERALLY CHUGGED ALONG UNABATED, AND IT WAS BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR MANY VAPE VENDORS AND MEMBERS OF THE VAPING PUBLIC.
the devices of their customers, and speaking about vaping as a safer alternative.
This has caused concern among those vape shop employees, the majority of whom feel that their free speech is being stifled and that they are not permitted to educate their customers on proper product use or the health benefits that vaping has over smoking for fear of breaking the law.
Arguably, the most alarming provision outlined in the FDA’s deeming regs was that manufacturers
would have to apply for authorization to continue to sell products not on the market before Feb. 15, 2007, which is considered the grandfather, or predicate date.
Any new products released after the predicate date, which accounts for the majority of vaporizers, e-liquid and various other accessories currently on the market today, would have to meet very rigid requirements. Among them, showing indisputable proof that their products benefit public health and other stipulations that most businesses operating within the vapor product industry consider to be unreasonable standards that simply cannot be met.
These companies would have to file a premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) with the FDA for new products released after Aug. 8, with each application costing hundreds of thousands of dollars with no guarantee of approval. This has caused stagnation across the industry with a market freeze currently in effect.
Aug. 8, 2018 is the final cutoff date for PMTA submissions for all vapor products that were brought to market after Feb. 15, 2007. Products may remain on the market for one additional year, or until the FDA denies their applications.
In the meantime, state and local governments have exacted their own authority by implementing new excise or “sin taxes” on vapor products, along with signing off on indoor vaping bans. Seen in states like Minnesota and North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Alabama and Louisiana respectively.
And in California the controversial Proposition 56, which will be appearing on the Nov. 8 ballot, has the potential to raise the state’s tobacco tax for the first time in almost 20 years, creating a heavy burden on the vapor industry there. It’s ultimately up to the voters to decide.
The industry has fought back though, with lawsuits challenging the FDA’s authority over vapor products from companies like NicoPure Labs and Lost Art Liquids, further demonstrating a sense of urgency resonating within the industry.
But the uphill battle to sway public policy by convincing politicians to see what has been overwhelmingly shown in studies that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than combustible tobacco, is a hard pill for our elected officials to swallow. Especially since the debate isn’t really over scientific proof, but rather money instead.
We now have a smoking alternative that if given room to stretch its wings could wipe traditional tobacco use off the face of the globe. But for supporters of the status quo, disruptions like the introduction and widespread use of vapor products as cigarette sales spiral further down the toilet, is not something that can be tolerated.
Looking at 2017, it’s fair to say that the period of stagnation with regard to innovation and product arrivals is destined to continue, much to the dissatisfaction of modders, e-liquid manufacturers and especially consumers.
I think we will see more states putting the screws to shops in the form of sin taxes, including taxes on wholesale, and there will be more disillusioned adult smokers that may have found vaping to be a viable option, but as prices have gone up, will stick to old habits instead.
What I hope to see in 2017, is that vapers don’t simply give up. It may be a lesson in futility, but strong organization, and support in advocacy efforts is a must. Stay informed, continue to educate and support local vendors, but most importantly, remain resolute. Unless you bring the fight to those wishing to snuff out the industry you care about, you won’t have any turf of your own left to stand on.
Letter From the Editor
Welcome back to another special edition of VAPE Magazine. The subject — all things e-liquid.
When we began planning this issue, we decided it should be a book that vapers and store owners alike would use as a reference for the year to come. Are you or your customers looking for a new pistachio tobacco? You’ll find it here. How about a rice krispy treat? An awesome milkshake? A line of nothing but milk flavors?
This reference guide lists hundreds of brands, what they offer and how to reach them in an easy to navigate system that will help put vapers in touch with new brands they may have otherwise never come in contact with.
We worked to put together a variety of content focused solely on e-liquid and the business to compliment the guide.
I hope you’ll find it to be useful!
From the entire team here at VAPE Magazine, I wish you all an awesome 2017! We’ll see you out on the show circuit!
Thanks for reading,
Editor in Chief
Standing Out in a Saturated Market
By Cory Noles
The struggles of the modern e-liquid manufacturer are real. Quite real.
In any time, to take a product from a simple concept to being successful is difficult — far more than the average vaper understands. Today, the climb is astronomical.
The days of perfect timing are over. Even “unique” flavors are becoming a thing of the past as there are few things that have yet to be done in the field.
Instead of having the right flavor, today’s market is about being “more clean” and having more hype. What makes your brand stand out beyond those that have been dominating the space for years?
Brace yourself for this.
What has happened is that as the e-liquid manufacturing industry has grown from a couple dozen big manufacturers to several thousand small to moderately sized manufacturers, it has begun to mature.
This isn’t a bad thing, unless your product depended entirely on good timing.
What this means for us, is that the vaping industry is taking on the basic business hallmarks that apply to every industry.
Today’s market demands a quality product
There are literally thousands of e-liquid companies across the nation and guess what — many of them make a good product. Adversely, many of them make lousy ones as well. What this means is that simply having a solid line is no longer enough to get your business where you want it to be.
Marketing is necessary
There was a time in the vape space when a good product could outshine its crappy label and cheap bottle. That time has passed. Sadly, it’s no longer “all about the juice.” People need a reason to want to try your product aside from word of mouth. That means they need to see it everywhere — on social media, in magazines and in the hands of the industry’s influencers.
A long-taught marketing principle says that a person has to see an ad or a logo an average of eight times before they will take action. Are people seeing your branding regularly?
People don’t buy e-liquid with your name on it
Locally, Bob’s Coil Suds might do well. If that’s all you want, go for it. However, in the grand scheme of things, your branding should reflect your audience. For example, Boosted is extra attractive to the car crowd. What started as a niche grew into a massive international brand. Bob is not a niche. Bob is a dude who, while probably a great dude, most of us don’t know.
So don’t do it.
Keep the number of flavors you release under control
While in theory, having a line made up of 20-30 flavors seems like it would have something for everyone, it’s a hard if not impossible sell to shop owners and especially distributors.
When your line crosses three flavors, expect it to be about 50 percent more difficult to sell with each you add. The fact is most shop owners aren’t rich and can’t afford to take a $1,500-$3,000 gamble on your product. I’m not saying a line like that can’t work, but it severely limits your field of potential buyers.
The line between unique and unsellable is fine. Very fine. I’ve tried a mountain of juice over the years, and this is a hard fact. Just because you may have formulated the world’s greatest bacon milkshake flavor or the next maple strawberry pizza cake, does not mean people want to vape it. Kudos on your skills, but when people try it and use words like “interesting” and “weird,” they will move on to the next sample.
Flavors need to be something the average vaper would enjoy. It can have a unique twist, but always ask yourself “Would I vape this all day every day?” If the answer is no, move on. EVERY manufacturer/mixologist has left hundreds of quality juices in a cabinet never to be tried again.
Basically, in sharing these tips, I’m just trying to remind everyone that this is a business. Each day it’s becoming more and more like any other. The cause is noble, yes, but without a solid business plan, you may never reach your potential.
Corey Noles is the Editor in Chief of VAPE Magazine. He also owns Busted Knuckle Vapor Fluids and Inked Up E-Liquid Co. Email email@example.com.
Scenic Vapors: Contributor Corner: Jayson Magbanua @mrpinoykid
By Chris Mellides
Photographer: Chris Starcher @dripmedia
In Frame: Tyler Price @dripping_balls
Location: Swallow Falls State Park, MD
“A healthier body is what keeps us going, and we vapers just have to talk to smokers more about vaping and make them turn away from cigarettes for good.”
Inspired by the friends he’s made on a path to becoming a professional photographer, 22-year-old Washington state resident Jayson Magbanua has always dreamt big.
Enamored with the art world and all of the different mediums it encompasses, populating his college studies with art classes seemed natural to Magbanua.
Educated in traditional photography where he was taught how to shoot on and develop film, the young student took what he learned, and applied his skillset and unique discipline to contemporary photography—which by all accounts is far easier and more convenient than having to rely on dated technology.
Like many in his peer group, the most accessible camera he had in college was the one in his pants’ pocket.
“Back in the day I would only use my phone and I would be pretty stoked with how the pictures turned out,” Magbanua said. “I never owned a camera since last year, I believe, but now that I have one it feels like a dream.”
Armed with his digital SLR camera, Magbanua would often take it with him on hikes and camping trips and found himself being quickly drawn to nature photography.
“When I’m trying to find myself I hike and camp,” he said. “Nature pictures are definitely one of my favorites because of the organic feel to them.”
Magbanua found that exploring the outdoors became more enjoyable when he gave up smoking and switched to vaping as a reduced harm alternative.
He admits that while he was a light smoker who would casually light up when in the company of friends, the obvious positive health effects coupled with the allure of vape tricks and the multitude of e-liquid flavors to choose from made transitioning to vapor products in late 2012 an easy choice for him to make.
It was natural for Magbanua to combine vaping and nature photography into his body of work, and it became apparent to him that several photographers, including select friends, had already began carving that niche out for themselves.
“My friends inspire me the most,” Magbanua said. “The support that they give me is incredible. We share the same passion for photography, and we teach each other and love each other.”
Scenic Vapers was a project that Magbanua discovered on Instagram, which he would often post to and use to explore a wealth of photographs from seasoned and amateur photographers alike, all with the swipe of a finger.
It wasn’t long before he began tagging his nature-inspired vaping photos using the Scenic Vapers hashtags that project founders Tyler Price an Ian Silver began to take notice.
Photographer: Billy Lawrence @trippinbillys
In Frame: Paige Drysdale @paige.nicolle
Location: Bell Rock Vortex, Sedona, Arizona
“I remember Tyler Price back in the day when he just started on Instagram, and had always been lurking through his Instagram,” Magbanua said. “Ian silver I don’t really know, but I like his work a lot.”
He added, “They are such humble human beings, and they are now doing good things and that makes me pretty happy.”
Magbanua says that his involvement with Scenic Vapers comes from his utmost respect and love for nature and vaping, and the excitement in knowing that he’s part of a following and a much larger movement.
“The movement and the vibe from the people,” Magbanua says is what interests him about the project. “It’s really nice seeing people explore and take pictures. I’m excited for where the group takes us in the future.”
He also believes that Scenic Vapers can be used as a vehicle for capturing the attention of smokers through photographs and exposing them to vaping as a culture and ultimately a healthier alternative to combustible tobacco.
“This is what we need to do to make the smokers stop smoking,” Magbanua said. “A healthier body is what keeps us going, and we vapers just have to talk to smokers more about vaping and make them turn away from cigarettes for good.”
To submit your photo to Scenic Vapers #CloudCheck for VAPE submission consideration, follow @VapeMagazine @ScenicVapers @Dripping_Balls and @Jedi.Visions and #VapeMagazine #CloudCheck & #ScenicVapers on Instagram.
For the VAPE pictorial column, photos must be in high resolution, but for the IG page everyone has the chance for a feature.
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