Written by James Jarvis
What if you had to opportunity to save lives and positively affect people daily while providing a life for your family and employment/career for people?
This is what the vapor industry has done for my wife and I.
What if I told you that the same people that want people to stop smoking are also trying to shut down the industry that will do that better than any other form of tobacco harm reduction currently approved by the same governmental agency?
The FDA is, however, not the only people to blame for this issue. We inside the vapor industry have brought some of this on ourselves.
Vape Timeline: Summed Up
It has gotten to a point where the FDA now has to step in as groups like Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids feel it is their duty and responsibility to police the industry that ultimately wants the same thing as they do…a tobacco free future for both children and adults. How did we get here?
In early 2008, the vape industry looked very different from today. There were only a few companies out there, most of which were on infomercials as that was the only way to get them. Shortly thereafter, companies started popping up with what are referred to as cig-a-likes. These were devices that looked and mimicked a cigarette, they were slightly heavier than a cigarette but had a similar feel and size.
Cig-a-likes had nicotine levels of 0mg all the way to 36mg and came in multiple flavors like tobaccos, menthols and basic fruits. They were not very successful on a national front until 2009/2010 when Blu entered the market and started advertising on TV.
There were several regional success stories like Westside Vapor that were paving the way in Ohio with availability in gas stations, carry outs and tobacco shops from street salespeople and wholesale distributors.
My first recollection of an ego 650 came around 2011. I remember getting these bottles of liquid and using a syringe to have to fill the cartridges. (It was very messy and I’m sure people that saw us using those had no clue what we were doing, but they were negatively judging Im sure,). It was not long after that ( I think about 2012/2013) when the first vapor exclusive stores started to open.
By that time, the ego had become variable voltage and tanks took the place of cartomizers. It was not long after that, Vapor Station opened its first store in Massillon Ohio. It was not the first vape exclusive store, but I would say one of the first 5 that I had heard of at that time in Ohio. The industry started growing.
If someone would have told me in 2008 that vape exclusive stores would be on every corner in just 10 years, I would not have believed them. As more and more stores opened, device selection started to get more diverse as well. In 2013, I remember seeing the Innokin 134 and thought, whoa! Then came Space Jam and Five Pawns so the race was on.
People were coming in at that time wanting to know how they could get their devices to produce bigger clouds and a smoother hit. I remember buying drill presses for our stores so we could drill out holes in Kanger Protanks and then someone came in asking about rebuilding coils and if we had any tanks that you could build your own coils in?
Soon after that came the build rush….Patriots to Kayfuns, all drilled out and coils built. The devices changed a ton too as now we had devices like Provaris and mechanical boxes or tubes without circuit protection and could make a mod out of everything from Clorets boxes to McDonalds Happy Meal (Minions) toys to Pokeballs.
The stores were becoming a place to hang out all day with your friends and try new liquid and hardware. They were almost like social clubs where you could go hang with people just like you and have fun. Vape Expos and localized “Vape Meets” started to happen. It was almost like the underground industry that had started went mainstream overnight. That is about the time the industry changed drastically, e-liquid changed at that time as well.
The evolution pushed the envelopment of bigger clouds, thicker liquid, nostalgic e-liquid flavors and vape shaming of beginners. This occured in 2015. There were liquids themed after everything from smores to fruit roll ups, cereals to cookies. Any type of your favorite childhood treat or flavor became available, this also included labeling to match. At that time, stores were more prevalent than ever as were devices and liquids.
The DIY market started to come to the forefront as devices and liquids were being made by everyone. It became almost a status symbol if you will. Stores started to fight within over customers, liquids and devices. There was a real division within starting and it was getting ugly. Then May 5th, 2016 hit and that started a rebuilding of industry friendships and solidarity.
What started out as an industry of primarily first-time business owners and liquid companies that started out of peoples houses was now on front street. It became a multimillion dollar entity overnight. Stores started looking like huge beautiful palaces, devices started getting more and more powerful and technology developed at the speed of light it seemed like.
We had become a professional industry overnight and not many people had any type of background in what that meant. We were all so happy having fun, that it didn’t seem to matter to us…we were in our own little world that nobody outside our circle understood, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered to us was we were no longer smoking, and the technology had taken us to places we never would have imagined. There was no stopping us or, so we thought.
August 8th: the Darkest Day
The darkest day for our industry was, without question, August 8th. This is the day that the FDA decided it wanted to regulate our industry as “tobacco.” TOBACCO of all things, the one thing that is not in our product will now be how we are defined. The one thing that this industry was started to help stop, we are now a part of. This was only the beginning.
What was to come was a series of dates by which stores or manufacturers had to conform to certain parts of this new Deeming Rule set forth by FDA. At first people within the industry rebelled and looked for every loophole or just flat out ignored what was happening.
How could they do this to our industry? An industry we started, not them. It was our thing, not government ruled. Our industry was the American Dream. In an era of big box stores and huge corporations, we had our little piece of heaven.
With the new regulation became a divided industry. On one side, this new word called advocacy sprung up. This again was new to the industry, people did not know what it meant or how to make it work for them.
On the other side, we had people who just blatantly didn’t care or want to be told what they could or could not do. This led to numerous new lines, products and imagery that at the time no one thought would come back to harm us.
Over the next 4 months as the folks that followed, the first set of Deeming Regulations deadlines came close and people were scrambling to get compliant. Then at the last minute, something that would be repeated a few more times the FDA decided to delay the date by 6 months.
This happened a few more times with different deadlines as each one drew closer. With each date getting delayed, the industry kept getting more and more relaxed and a sense of calmness hit. Then came the biggie…the FDA pushed the final date to 2022. This caused both excitement and frustration with many.
Everyone was excited about getting a 4-year reprieve, some even thought it meant that the entire Deeming was pushed back and new product once again started hitting the market. People were starting to open more stores, liquid lines were starting to go more to co-packers, and business started booming again….and then boom!
The ANPRM by the FDA
The boom I was referring to was FDA announced an ANPRM on nicotine, then a week later they followed with an ANPRM on flavors! An ANPRM is an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FDA did the same thing on vapor back in 2016 and in May they announced the Deeming Rule on Vapor.
As if this was not enough of a 1-2 punch to the industry, CFTFK (Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids) and several other “public health” agencies filed a lawsuit against the FDA for their delay of the Deeming Rule until 2022.
In this lawsuit, they also referenced flavors enticing youth (not a new argument) but this time they included in the lawsuit a picture of an e-liquid called Juice Box that comes in what looks like a child’s apple juice box packaging. The three of these incidents have sent the industry into a tailspin.
A lot of us have been complaining about labeling since the 2016 Deeming date, but not much was done. In fact, it seems as if the more we complained the more and more labels that hit the market that will ultimately be used against us. It’s not just labels that are being scrutinized by CFTFK and the other groups.
The JUUL Issue
Unfortunately, it’s also a company making the devices, known as JUUL devices. Their labels are very professional and not something that would entice children in my opinion.
The problem with JUUL is that many is that these devices have been becoming ever popular with the youth as they look like a flash drive and are easy to conceal. They also do not have a zero-nicotine option available.
These devices use salt nicotine which is a higher concentrated form of nicotine and the available nicotine levels exceed those of most traditional e-liquids. The youth are ordering these mostly online in my opinion and using them for a quick nicotine buzz. I firmly believe that vape shops are not the problem.
We Must Take Responsibility
We have an extremely real problem on our hands and several hard fights in front of us. We need to get serious and unite as an industry to protect what we have and the reason we all got into this industry. It was not for cartoony labels, cartoon marketing, youth marketing, huge clouds, larger than life devices, starting a new generation of users, it was to stop smoking and provide others with an opportunity to do the same.
For everyone I have met in the last 10 years in this industry, I am thankful for the opportunity to know you. For the ones that continually use this industry to push the envelope and make this industry attractive to you, I ask you why you want to help destroy the industry that helps so many? How do you sleep at night?
For those that fight the good fight everyday, I appreciate you and the blood, sweat and tears you have put in for the industry. I know in the end, we will be able to sleep at night knowing we did as much as we could do.
SIDE NOTE: Advocating for the right to use vapor products and preserving the independent industry in the U.S. is something James Jarvis has grown deeply passionate about. The evidence of that passion is obvious in this open letter he recently wrote. It was addressed to no one in particular, but James felt the need to clear his mind and bring those thoughts to life by writing them down. Though, James had no clear agenda as to where this “open letter” would ultimately be sent. It was honor to get this out to the public.