The e-cig and vape market today is akin to the wild west, partially because the market itself has grown so exponentially, so quickly. In the 13 years since an electronic cigarette was first invented by a Beijing pharmacist, these products have literally spread across the globe like wildfire (if wildfire could jump oceans), quickly being marketed in the US and UK by 2007. There are currently over 250 different brands of e-cigarettes on the market and 2015 sales for this vertical reached $3.5B. The FDC currently does not regulate e-cigs or the liquid(s) used in them, hence the wild west reference. But that may be about to change.
The process to regulate e-cigarettes was started over 5 years ago, but is nearing implementation. The proposed regulations issued in 2014 prohibited free sampling, selling to minors, and required warning labels on vaping devices. Even though e-cigarettes and vape kits base their safety on not containing the same dangerous chemicals that are released and inhaled when a traditional cigarette is lit and smoked, it looks like they are not going to be considered “harmless” by the FDA. Like most research, the data seems to skew depending on which side is presenting it. Those for regulation claim e-cigarettes and vaping are just as harmful as regular cigarettes. Those who support e-cigs and vaping claim it can help people smoke less regular cigarettes or even quit altogether.
After the 2014 proposal was published, it was open to the public for commentary for a set period of time. The FDA then compiled all of the responses to the proposed regulations and sent them to the White House Office of Budget and Management (OMB) for review, adjustments, and/or final approval. The main issue of concern for those in this industry is the grandfathering date. If approved as is, anyone already selling products in the US prior to February 15, 2007 would be allowed to continue selling with minimal inconvenience. However, since vaping products didn’t come to market until after the above date, these sellers would have regulatory hoops to jump through (and pay for) that would likely cause most of them to shutter operations.
At the recent SAG awards, none other than Leonardo DiCaprio was photographed vaping and those both for and against it had a field day. One thing that just about everyone can agree on is that if FDA’s regulatory suggestions do come into effect, 99% of the small to medium players in the vaping business will go up in smoke.