Many vapers are being caught by surprise when they suddenly find their favorite vape juice flavor or the refill coils they need to keep their electronic cigarette operational are no longer available. Vape supplies and even entire brands are disappearing left and right and this trend is likely to continue and, in fact, accelerate. Just what in the heck is going on?
These changes are the direct result of FDA regulation. The vape industry has been aware of the impact of pending regulations for some time but many companies preferred to take a head-in-the-sand approach or did not take the time to inform their customers. As a result, many individual vapers are being taken by surprise.
At Kai’s Virgin Vapor, we did our best to make sure our customers stayed up to date. We sent out newsletters, posted to social media, blogged, featured prominent notices on our homepage banner and ran PMTA sales to allow our customers to stock up before the cut off (we could only afford to take 19 of our flavors through the PMTA process). Even so, we know people’s lives are busy and many of our customers were still surprised when we discontinued some of our popular flavors. If you are one of them, read on.
The FDA required all vape manufacturers, including manufacturers of both vape juice and electronic cigarette hardware, to submit Premarket Tobacco Product Applications (PMTA’s) by September 9th, 2020. The applications were incredibly burdensome as well as crushingly expensive, putting them largely out of reach for all but the biggest companies. For example, Kai’s Virgin Vapor submitted approximately 50,000 pages of documentation, scientific review, lab testing, manufacturing information, and marketing and sales data, among other things, and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lab testing and the of hiring experts, lawyers and consultants whose services were required in order to submit a substantive application to the FDA that had a real chance of being accepted.
Many manufacturers could not afford the time or expense and others just couldn’t justify the risk since there was no clear cut path to FDA approval. Sadly, any vape product for which a PMTA was not submitted by the deadline is now illegal to sell in the United States. As a result, many products disappeared from the market when the sun rose on September 10th.
However, the worst is yet to come. Keep in mind that submitting a PMTA application and getting one actually approved are two very different things. Almost certainly the FDA will be weeding out lower quality applications over the coming months and as these companies receive their pink slips, expect more vape products to go the way of the dodo.
In addition, it’s obvious that a fair number of companies have continued to sell products in defiance of the FDA, likely figuring that, since they’re being put out of business anyway, why not wait until they are actually forced to close? While the FDA is currently busy sifting through the ten mile high pile of PMTA’s that landed on its desk on September 9th, the agency will eventually get around to enforcement and, when that happens, expect to see yet more vape flavors and brands disappear.
On the vape shop level, FDA enforcement is unlikely to focus on individual vape shops anytime soon so vapers who purchase from a local store may not see the changes for some time. It’s doubtful that many vape shops actually pulled all “non PMTA” inventory from their shelves on September 10th and, in fact, doing so would have been dang near impossible. There is no official list of FDA compliant products so individual shop owners would have been left to contact each manufacturer individually to try to get answers. It is unlikely that many did so. Instead, most vape shops are quietly selling through their stock and hoping no one notices. However, they may find the manufacturer is no longer around when they go to reorder and that’s likely when their customers will find out, too.
On top of the regulatory hurdles, vape businesses are being squeezed by the economic downturn caused by the Covid shutdowns, tightening vape regulations at the state level which are forcing companies to close or locking major markets like New York and California, and the lingering damage done to the industry by the CDC dragging its feet before finally announcing that the so-called “vaping illness” of 2019 was not, in fact, caused by legal nicotine vaping as the mainstream media had been relentlessly suggesting, but had actually been the result of tainted black market marijuana cartridges.
All of these factors are combining and, as they do, over the coming months more and more vapers will be asking, “Why isn’t my vape juice available any more?” Now, at least, you’ll know why.
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