While recent months have represented dark days for vapers, the last two weeks suddenly brought a few unlikely signs that the Vapocalypse currently headed for Planet Vape on May 11th of this year might have a shot at being diverted before impact.
May 11th is the deadline for e-juice manufacturers to submit their Premarket Tobacco Product Applications or PMTA's to the FDA. The PMTA process has received scathing and well deserved criticism for being hopelessly unclear, purposelessly bureaucratic, and monstrously expensive. Many see it as a bid to hand the industry to Big Tobacco by wiping out all the small and medium sized players who won't be able to afford to navigate the regulatory nightmare.
As vape companies scrambled to try to figure out how and if they had any hope of complying with the PMTA, they were hit with another one-two punch.
All through the final quarter of 2019, vaping was wrongly linked to the so called "vaping illness," a lung ailment that caused 2,506 illnesses and 54 deaths before it was revealed that it was actually caused by adulterated illegal street drugs that contained marijuana, not legal vape juice. However, the damage had been done and many vape companies saw sales drop precipitously as customers turned back to combustible cigarettes in fear.
At the same time, the Trump administration suddenly announced on September 11, 2019, that it planned to pull flavored vape products from the market, a move that would have instantly crashed sales at vape companies already struggling to afford the PMTA process. Ultimately, the Trump administration opted for a far saner policy, raising the national vaping age to 21 and pulling only flavored pod based e-liquids, which are far more popular with youth, while leaving bottled e-juices available in an array of flavors. But the damage had been done. Precious months had passed while small vape businesses sat paralyzed waiting for the FDA to announce its flavored e-juice policy, months companies couldn't afford to lose while still holding on to a snow ball's chance in hell of complying with the already punishing timeline laid out by the PMTA requirements.
This is where things sat until, just in the last two weeks, it was reported that, during an Oval Office phone call with Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar, President Trump expressed regret for getting personally involved in the flavored vape ban.
"I should never have done that fucking vaping thing," he reportedly said to Azar.
Less than a week later, Azar was intereviewed on the Scott Sands radio show which is broadcast on WSPD News Radio 1370 in Toledo, Ohio. Sands posed some interesting questions to Azar, reportedly at the prompting of James Jarvis, the president of the Ohio Vapor Trade Association and a vape shop owner himself.
“The vape industry has 100,000 people who work in that sector with 15,000 small businesses around the country, and some of the President’s new restrictions would run all those people out of work," said Sands.
“[We] would not at all do that, just to reassure you. The President has struck a very balanced approach," Azar replied.
Azar went on to state that the focus would be on pod based e-juices and the agency would be working with small businesses to help them through the PMTA process.
“We’re working with small businesses and the vaping association to actually create pathways that would streamline approval for the open-tank small vape shop-based products,” Azar said.
“What we’re focused on are the cartridges in the systems with kid-attractive flavors, not the…open-tank vaping systems, and as to all products we’re committed to working with all actors in the system to get them through the regulatory process that Congress set up as expeditiously as possible. That regulatory process is not something the President created. That was created by Congress back in the Obama administration. We just have to implement it,” Azar continued.
If true, there could still be hope yet for the numerous small vaping businesses across the country, the 100,000 people who work there and depend on them for their livelihoods and for the millions of vapers who want to retain their right to chose what flavors they vape.
You can listen to Azar's statements here: