Fund The Future, By Fig Ramsey

In the short time it’s been around, the vape industry has probably had more highs and lows than any other I’ve witnessed in my life.  With thinly-veiled attempts at squelching the industry “to protect the children” by categorizing vape as a tobacco product and raising the age to vape to 21+ in many states; what is to many a life-saving alternative has been demonized in government and the media. 

With all of the misinformation that’s floating around, the reality is that it’s tough for many people to know what to believe. People want to make healthier choices, but when the government agencies that are supposed to protect them are the ones who are limiting their access to new technologies, it’s a confusing – and dangerous – message.

A perfect example of this happened in California – arguably the most health-conscious state in the nation. In 2016, Senator Mark Leno introduced SB5 to redefine vapor products as smoking.  It was pushed through in late-night Extraordinary Special Sessions, and the Governor signed it into law on May 4, 2016.  He also signed Tobacco 21 into law, with the only saving grace being that active duty military is exempt.

At the time, the general mindset around the country - and particularly in California - was that “that’d never happen here”!  Our state/city is vape friendly!

As of this writing, however, we now have Tobacco 21 in over 250 cities & municipalities in 18 states.  And it’s picking up steam in most every region in the country, and around the globe.

Here’s the thing…this isn’t something that’s going away.  Not ever.  There are massive profits on the line. $300 billion in annual health & lost productivity costs in the United States alone. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

We also need to understand that there are dozens of states that are faced with the task of re-securitizing the asset-backed-tobacco-bonds that were made possible by the Master Settlement Agreement. 

Case in point, while California was waging its War On Vape, it was also busy selling $2B in Asset Backed Tobacco Bonds (March 2015), which are repaid by tobacco tax revenues.

 There’s two billion reasons to kill vape, in California alone.

Those that have been reaping those profits from people smoking are not going to just quit fighting to end vaping.

So, here we are in 2017, just days after Dr. Gottlieb announced that the FDA would be extending the PMTA submission deadline, by FOUR YEARS!

WooHoo!  Four more years!  To do what?  To continue doing business as usual, which – technically – is selling off existing products that were not on the market before February 2007.  That is, unless the products are intending to go through with PMTA.

After all, what the FDA Deeming Regs set is a timeline for a forced sell-off.  Until last week that deadline was November 8, 2018 - just a little over one year to pack it in and close shop.

In the current climate, the reward – if you will – seems to be just an opportunity to deal with legislative headaches, the joy of competing with online vendors, and relentless attacks in the media and from groups professing to be protecting children.

 

That said, if you look around in any of the advocacy forums, you will see Leaders. They’re the ones that have been “fighting the good fight”.  And they’re going to continue to fight, if only because their passion to save #ABillionLives is that great!

But they can’t do it alone.  And they can’t continue the fight without support. 

 

They not only need for more people to show up, but they also need funding.  The fight is only going to become more challenging, across the country, on both a state and local level.

This is especially the case, now that Dr. Gottlieb released the extension of the PMTA deadline. 

So, where does this leave us? 

The harsh reality is that we have lost a tremendous number of vape shops over the past year.  Be it natural attrition, simple exits due to burdensome taxation, or the fear of signing a new lease…the reality is that we have fewer shops.

This leaves not only fewer options for smokers to make the switch, but it also means fewer people are going to be in situations where they learn about our plight.  I mean, let’s face it, if a guy is buying his vape from a discount e-liquid site, he’s probably not getting a whole lot of encouragement to write his representative.

Here is the true beauty of the FDA Extension…shops can now feel more secure to continue doing business. Many will now feel free to open additional locations.

So what do we do with the next four years? What is important? 

The Number One thing we need to focus on is funding our State Groups & their respective lobbyists.  Like it or not, that’s how things get done.  And they aren’t cheap.

We need to wake up to this fact, because it’s lobbyist dollars from our opponents that put us here to begin with. So how do we combat this huge money machine run by Big Pharma? Yes, it’s a daunting endeavor, but together, we can make a huge difference.

We must redirect the conversation.  We must redirect towards the positive.

Here are some steps that we can work towards, in my opinion:

1.   Encourage shops to only carry responsibly branded and marketed products.

2.   Encourage shops to have pricing that is not only affordable, but also relative to the costs of smoking, or lower.

3.   Encourage distributors and vendors to respect Vape Shops by not undercutting & gouging.  Vape shops are our first line of defense & promotion. Don’t undersell your products to compete with your front line.

4.   Encourage stakeholders to become actively involved with local advocacy efforts by working with local legislators & to contribute financially to the efforts.

5.   Encourage Vape Consumers to participate & take responsibility for their role as citizen advocates.

6.   Encourage ALL Vapers to embrace, celebrate, and promote the companies, groups, and individuals that are putting in the countless hours (and resources) to protect the future of vapor products.

7.   Encourage ALL Vapers to be engaged with caring for the future.  We need to be an active part of the process, in a positive manner.  It’s the only way that we’re going to achieve our goals.

8.   Above all else – we need to understand and appreciate that our true competition isn’t each other; it’s smoking, and those that prefer that folks to continue smoking.

The war is not going to be won without action.  We have to unite.  We have to participate.  It’s ours to win.  It’s ours to lose.  And one of the ways that our company is moving forward is to work even closer with our accounts to not only help them get more involved with their state groups, we are going to help fund their state’s efforts through our Advocacy Affiliate program.

As a part of this program, legitimate state & local groups can sign up for a referral code.  When their members use their code, 10% of their purchase goes right back to their group!

We call it #VapeTithing, and we’re happy to help you set up your own program.

Please join me in making sure adults continue to have safer alternatives available to them. 

 

 

Gabriel Benson