Could the new Trump administration save the vaping industry from its fears of being regulated into oblivion by the Food and Drug Administration? Gregory Conley, a top vaping spokesman, says it might happen.
I interviewed Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, on April 15. He said the signs continue to point to favorable treatment for vaping by the administration. But nothing definite has been announced.
It may be too early to look for such an announcement, Conley said, because Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s nominee to lead the FDA, hasn’t yet been confirmed.
Last year, the Obama Administration FDA announced it would deem all e-cigarettes to be tobacco products, thereby falling under its jurisdiction. The FDA says it wants to help people avoid becoming addicted to tobacco and the diseases tobacco consumption can cause.
However, e-cigarette juices do not contain tobacco, and many do not even contain nicotine. And the vaping industry says e-cigarettes are a good way to quit smoking — a hotly debated point among researchers and public health officials.
The FDA has announced retroactive regulation of all e-cigarette products introduced since Feb. 15, 2007, which includes virtually everything being sold today.
Smaller e-cigarette manufacturers and suppliers have said the cost of compliance, estimated at about $300,000 per product, would drive them out of business, leaving only the big tobacco companies, who can afford the expense. The regulations take final effect on Aug. 8, 2018, unless the Trump administration decides otherwise. Here is a timeline.
Both Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services; and Gottlieb, the FDA director nominee, have taken stands that appear sympathetic to the vaping industry, Conley said. So prospects look hopeful that the vaping restrictions will be stopped.
Even if the restrictions aren’t overturned, vaping products may not vanish entirely, since the big tobacco makers will be able to afford to comply with them.
But Conley said the smaller to medium-sized companies, who specialize in vaping and have driven innovation, will be gone.
Big tobacco companies probably will benefit from the FDA approval process, a tobacco industry analyst said in a research note last year.
“In many cases, the associated costs with this application will likely cause many e-cigarette manufacturers to close shop over the next several years, boosting long-run market share for Altria, Reynolds, and other large organizations that have both the financial wherewithal and regulatory experience to navigate this process,” wrote Adam Fleck of Morningstar.