Words and photos by Alyssa Stahr
First speaker and moderator of Day 1 of the Moscow Vape Expo, American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley, perhaps summed up our industry and the event best: “There’s plenty to learn. This is a very complex industry that is constantly changing and constantly evolving, so there’s plenty of room for opportunities to learn at this event.”
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Even though my last trade show of 2015 was held in Russia, it paralleled many aspects of the industry that are happening stateside. While the speakers (myself included for the first time) were inside a room speaking about advocacy, the crowd was outside hitting up the booths from around the world, taking photos with beautiful women and watching cloud chasers. All in all it was a festive atmosphere during both days at the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Centre, and I was happy with the turnout of the crowd inside the conference doors. Even though many of the listeners of our panel didn’t speak English, they were provided a translator, and it was a smooth event.
Conley was up first, and he spoke about “Lessons to be Learned from America’s War on Vaping.” He began with his story as a smoker for about eight years, and then in 2010 he bought an open vapor product and finally quit successfully. Conley didn’t pull any punches as usual, speaking about the disruptive technology of the industry and the threat we are to the tobacco industry. He started off with a theme that would echo throughout the day’s presentations: where regulations are in different parts of the world and how people are trying to destroy vaping.
“I believe very strongly in the phrase, ‘Know Your Enemy,’” he said. “Your biggest enemy is going to be tobacco control.”
Conley shared with listeners about minor bans, taxation, child-resistant packaging laws and vaping bans across the United States. Perhaps the most telling of statements in his speech was that smokers are not proud to smoke.
“Maybe it’s different in Russia, but I don’t think so. Vapers are proud to vape,” he said.
Next on Conley’s agenda were the FDA’s deeming regulations in the United States and the importance of the grandfather date. With more than 100,000 vapor products on the market, the deeming regulations could shrink the market by more than 99 percent, according to Conley.
“The FDA has admitted they expect businesses to close,” he said.
He went into how the public is getting mixed messages about vaping risks. In 2010, 85 percent believed that e-cigs were safer than cigarettes. That number dipped in 2015 due to misinformation. Only 44 percent of U.S. citizens believe ecigarettes are less hazardous than smoking.
He closed with some general ways to win or survive in the industry. He said that America has made a lot of bad mistakes in marketing our products. Yes, it’s the center of vaping, but we’ve done a lot of stupid things, he shared. He then went into Federal Regulation and The Tobacco Control Act and explained to the crowd about how important it was to know about it if they were going to make e-liquids and work with the United States.
“Don’t make vaping in Russia about clouds. Make vaping in Russia about getting off cigarettes. Clouds are fine, but don’t make that the biggest part of your marketing. If you make it all about clouds, the public is going to think you’re a bunch of hustlers and that you’re not making it about health, you’re just making it worse,” he said.
I was next, and I talked about innovations and trends that VAPE Magazine reported on in 2015. I shared with the crowd trends I’ve seen about cloud chasing, device innovations, hot products, vaping for a cause, protecting your right to vape, premium e-liquids, events and customer service in brick and mortar locations. I received a lot of Q&A, mostly about the demographics of vapers in the United States.
Derick Kvass of Kvass Inc., the event’s platinum sponsor, spoke briefly about why it’s important as an industry that we create a united front and uphold our standards and what our purpose is, which is to create alternative methods for smokers.
“What I love about it is that we are helping people every single day,” Kvass said.
Next up was Jordan Stewart, co-founder of the E-Cigarette Club. Jordan Stewart from the E-Cigarette Club started his talk off by saying that we need to try to raise the level of customer service in the industry. Owning three brick and mortar stores in the north of Ireland with his wife, he addressed the state of what’s happening in Europe and the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and stressed education.
“We’re facing a serious challenge. A challenge that actually may come March of next year. We might not even have a business or a business that is completely unrecognizable to what we have today,” Stewart said.
He then played an excerpt from the highly-anticipated documentary, A Billion Lives.
After a delicious lunch, coffee and muffin break, Beju Lakhani, CEO and founder of VapeMoshi, presented, “Leveraging Technology to Grow Your Vape Business.” Based in Toronto, Canada, Lakhani also serves as president of the Canadian Vaping Association. With former senior roles at Salesforce.com, Oracle and CenturyLink, his theme was how retail has changed and tools that are available outside of the brick and mortar shop to help businesses succeed.
The day’s presentations closed with Yush Zhu, director of marketing and sales for Ruvian Technology, an e-cigarette manufacturer in China. Zhu’s talk centered around a development overview and the e-cig industry’s regulations in China, Chinese e-cigarette market analysis and the “other side of Made in China.” Chinese regulations are predicted to take even longer, according to Zhu, with a clear policy of regulations “by 2020.”
“The Chinese authorities are really closely observing in Europe the TPD and in U.S. with the FDA,” he said.
After discussing demographics of Chinese vapers, he stressed targeting a different type of customer in China. “If you want to target a different type of customer, you need to have a different kind of strategy in China.”
All in all, the two days of Vape Expo Moscow were a great success. The show floor was busy with vapers and booming businesses, cloud chasers and advocates. Organizers are preparing for next year’s event, to be held June 24-26, 2016.
For more information, visit http://vapeexpo.ru/en.