Taking a Look at The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association

Taking a Look at The Smoke Free Alternatives
Trade Association

By Cynthia Cabrera, SFATA Executive Director

 

The e-cig industry is a disruptor, turning the tobacco industry on its head,
empowering consumers and creating a new multi-billion dollar industry. But, in the
long run who will be able to reap the windfall brought on by this nascent industry?

The World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and the Surgeon
General have for many years agreed that tobacco use is harmful, and in particular, that
smoking tobacco cigarettes is very harmful in various ways. Despite the well-known dangers
of cigarette smoking and the public policy arguments in favor of reducing tobacco consumption such as lower health care costs, efforts to reduce tobacco consumption have not been as effective as one would expect over the past several decades. Reducing tobacco use is a significant benefit that has the potential to change our society for the better and an objective that the FDA and anti-smoking groups across the globe have been trying to achieve for decades.

I believe a major problem right now is that FDA and anti smoking groups seem to view vapers and the act of vaping as indistinguishable from smokers and smoking when the two are in reality very different things. Given the stigma smoking has earned, and the harm it causes, there is a strong push by FDA, various Attorney Generals, and legislators at the federal, state and local levels. These groups and individuals confuse smoking with vaping and attempt to regulate vaporizers in the exact same manner as cigarettes. This doesn’t make sense, and would be a huge mistake on many levels as it would unfairly stifle the industry, deny millions of adults an alternative to tobacco and stifle one of the most prolific segments of our economy.  That’s bad news for an industry that’s largely comprised of small companies and entrepreneurially-minded individuals

The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) exists in part to help educate smaller and mid-sized companies as to what we consider to be acceptable advertising, manufacturing and marketing protocols and to serve as a powerful voice for them in our nation’s capital as well as in their own backyards where many of them are being unfairly treated as though they were tobacco companies. 

At SFATA we are constantly engaging and educating regulatory officials and legislators at the federal, state and local level on behalf of our members. Our membership grows each month as more companies look to collaborate to achieve common goals and to obtain guidance and support as the industry expands and become more complicated.

To date, SFATA is the largest e-cig trade association and is comprised of sophisticated companies in the industry who are looking to work together to help protect common interests.  Business owners and consumers of e-cigs and e-cig accessories can help in a variety of ways:

Become a member of SFATA. While different companies may not always agree on every initiative, as some affect others differently in the marketplace, its important to have an industry that speaks with a unified voice on the issues that everyone agrees are most important. SFATA is committed to engaging with government agencies and elected officials in an effective manner—to communicate industry messages that smaller and mid-size businesses would not normally able to convey. We employ FDA experts, as well as attorneys and staff who specialize in the areas that affect our industry and are able to be of the most help as they have a profound understanding of the regulatory, legal and business issues that are unique to the vaping community. 
The way consumers and business owners talk about vaping needs to be different.

As a business owner, your message and your right to communicate it, is different than that of a consumer and that’s an important distinction. A consumer can talk about his or her vaping experience with impunity and in ways businesses cannot.

A consumer can advocate about what they see as any benefit vaporizers provide them with. Perhaps the availability of flavors keeps that consumer interested in using his or her personal vaporizing device rather than tobacco cigarettes? Perhaps he or she has cut down use of tobacco cigarettes and have saved money? Perhaps he or she feels better having switched to vaping from smoking. There are many compelling, important and amazing stories that vapers share about how vaping has changed their lives for the better. It’s important that consumers and consumer advocacy groups make those statements so that elected officials, government agencies and others unfamiliar with vaping understand consumers’ point of view. 

Business owners have a responsibility to sell and advertise products as intended and governed by law. While it is fine for consumers to share their personal stories, business should never make or endorse health or smoking cessation claims. Doing so could, arguably, subject such a business to being regulated by the FDA as a tobacco product under the current state of the law.  

Instead, craft your message as a business owner and focus on the economic impact this product has given you. Focus on the jobs you’ve created, the taxes you pay, the properties you rent and how you’ve assisted your community financially.  Attend meetings and stay in tune with what is happening in your community. Visit the SFATA website to get more information about issues in your state. Rally your customers to attend meetings as well; have them share their stories.  It’s important to engage with legislators and be part of the process as they are responsible for making decisions that affect your community and they need to hear from you.

Whatever the case is, consumer or business, advocating for an industry and the right to use new technology requires a lot of work. Consumer and businesses that engage and communicate with lawmakers have the ability to effectuate positive change. Legislators care about and listen to their constituents. Our website has tools to contact elected officials and information business owners can utilize for themselves and relay to their elected officials and communities  in support of the industry.


For more information, visit www.sfata.org.

Submit your e-liquid line today to be listed in VAPE Magazine’s 2017 E-Liquid Flavor Guide for free!

August 31, 2016

Featured

socialThe 2017 E-Liquid Flavor Guide will include a list and guide of thousands of e-liquid products from the largest brands in the industry to boutique craft flavors.

“The last few months have seen an explosion of new E-liquid lines and flavors as manufacturers scrambled to get their products in the market before the August 8 FDA deadline.”

“The Flavor Guide will be a valuable resource for business executives, you can be sure they will keep it at arm’s reach at their desk throughout the year,” said Matt Schramel, VAPE Magazine publisher. “Not to mention it will be an even bigger value to vapers for finding the perfect e-liquid.”

In addition to the industry’s most complete flavor listing, the magazine will also contain reviews, features, interviews and how-to’s.

The VAPE Magazine’s 2017 E-Liquid Flavor Guide will be published November 2016.

The guide will be distributed to all VAPE Magazine subscribers, over 14,000 shops in the US and UK and other retail outlets around the world.

HURRY. SPACE IS LIMITED! DEADLINE IS SEPT. 15, 2016.

To submit your e-liquid brand for FREE go to:

http://VAPEmz.com/Liquid

Pennsylvania Vape Shop Owners Protest 40% Tax Increase On Vapor Products

Small business owners and smoke-free advocates flooded the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Monday to protest a 40% wholesale tax on vapor products.

This tax, which includes e-liquid, passed as part of the Pennsylvania state budget, and since then vape advocates say that of the 400 plus vape shops in the state, more than 50 were forced to shut their doors in the midst of what several called “unfair policies.”

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Vape shop owners rally against a 40% tax on vapor products at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg, PA on Sept. 26, 2016.—Photo courtesy of ABC News.

Amid the vitriol and outrage that permeated through the air at the hearing, the voice of reason seemed to come from Representative Jeff Wheeland, a Republican in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who represents the state’s 83rd Legislative District.

Rep. Wheeland questioned the nature of the tax increase and is sponsoring House Bill 2342, which offers a compromise for tense businesses in the form of a five-cent levy per milliliter of e-liquid sold in-store. So far the bill has 60 co-sponsors and its passage seems possible.

However, there are just a few days remaining in the fall legislative session, so supporters of the bill hope that the tax reform will pass before the House breaks until its next session.

Watch the ABC affiliate broadcast on this issue and read more about it here.

From Gearhead to Advocate

September 28, 2016

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By COREY NOLES

They never could have fathomed what it would become.

Just a few short years ago when Danne and Heather Reinke started 3D Vapor in East Alton, Illinois, they had dreams of owning their own business and being able to help people quit smoking. In not much more than a year, 3D Vapor had become one of the hottest names in the industry.

Fast forward three years, and the battlefront looks very different. Instead of facing up against other manufacturers and other distribution companies, Reinke finds himself fighting against a set of overreaching regulations and a public image war that threatens to squash the industry that he helped shape.

These days, he’s wearing a suit more often instead of his trademark Dickies shorts red 3D polo. Visits to legislators, conference calls with advocacy organizations and hands-on involvement with regional advocates are taking up a larger portion of his time.

It’s not taking him away from the business he and his wife built — it’s ensuring it stays alive in a burdensome regulatory landscape.

Where it all started

Danne, an ASE Journeyman Mechanic, first discovered vaping in November 2012. After finding success at kicking his cigarette habit, he quickly graduated from various starter rigs, he picked up an Empire mod and a Noble box mod at Vape Bash in Chicago.

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While he and Heather were at Vape Bash, he purchased 50 CE4 clearomizers with 900mah pass-through batteries. When they returned home, he posted them on a Facebook group and they sold the next day. The following day he purchased 100 starter kits and 100 CE4s, and again, sold out almost immediately.

The next Monday he ordered 500 with an assortment of MVPs, Egos, mechanical mods, RDAs and some variable voltage mods.

“We even did delivery for awhile,” he said, sitting in the breakroom of the company’s Wood River, Ill., warehouse. “But that’s when we knew it was time to open the store.”

Reinke found a location just a block from where he worked as a mechanic for the previous 10 years. While he got the shop ready for opening day in the evenings, he was literally bombarded with people coming to check out the new store and make the switch from smoking to vaping.

“I even took everything home at night because we didn’t have an alarm yet,” he said, noting that they already had more than 200 customers before they opened the doors.

On opening day, Danne went to the bank and drew $220 of the $250 they had to their name to be able to make change for the day. When he pulled up to the store there was no way to prepare for what he saw. They sold the store completely out of product the first week.

“The line that morning was long,” he said, adding that there were so many people crammed into the 1,400 sq. ft. store front that the door glass was accidentally broken out.

For months, an employee opened the store every day, while Danne came in at lunch. That went on for six months until it just wasn’t possible anymore. By June 1, 2013, 3D had launched a second store.

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The shift to distribution

In November 2013, Danne and Heather visited ECC in California for the first time — and in 2014 they were there doing business. With only a 10×10 booth crammed tight full of everything they carried, 3D made an impact with six-figure sales numbers they never anticipated.

Earlier that year, like many others, they learned the hard way about the Chinese New Year and what that means for imported product. Seeing that as an opportunity, he began stocking up on items and reaching out to area stores encouraging them to buy from him and avoid the hassles of importing.

In the process he started carrying a handful of e-liquids: Space Jam, Alpha, the Standard. Right as it began to take off, he noticed a juice floating around a high-end mod group on Facebook that people were going crazy about.

An admin of the group had been including the juice, which he manufactured, with every purchase he shipped out — to the point that people began clamoring for the juice.

It’s name?

Boosted.

“He said he was going to change my life”

Cory Vigil, owner and founder of Boosted, said recently that the first time Danne called him he told Cory he was going to change his life — Cory hung up on him.

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“We talked back and they had asked for samples of my two flavors — Boosted and Anti-Lag,” Vigil said. “I shipped it out five times before I got it correct. I even charged them for samples.”

The two had never met, but Vigil said Reinke had to have been pretty annoyed with him by the time he received the shipment.

Within a few days, 3D placed an order. Vigil scrambled to get it filled. In a few days, Reinke called again and order 500 bottles. Without quality boxes or experience producing such large amounts, Vigil managed to slam it out and get it shipped.

“Then I got the call,” Vigil said. Dan called me to say UPS held the shipment due to damage. My heart sank.”

Some of the boxes were trashed, others were returned.

By that time, Vigil had invested every penny he had to his name and Danne said even the 500 bottles weren’t going to cut it. To help Vigil get the job done, Reinke paid for half the order up front.

“I was so scared to ship the order and my wife was studying for the BAR exam,” Vigil recalled. “I asked if I could take her car and drive the order to him [from Colorado].”

Immediately after it was bottled, Vigil loaded in the car and drove 14 hours straight.

“I was so tired I didn’t even want to be paid,” he said. “When I got back, 50 people were there waiting to meet me…I didn’t even make it out of the state before Dan called to reorder.”

And it exploded from there. What formed were a

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pair of multi-million dollar companies and a lifelong friendship.

“These people are my family,” Vigil said. “If someday all of this ends, we’ll still be together.”

Ready for war

That this might end was something that worried the Reinke’s immensely in May when the FDA Deeming Regulations were announced. He felt the industry was doomed — for a brief time.

Now, he — along with countless others in this industry — is ready for battle.

And he intends to see this industry win.

As for 3D Vapor, the Reinke’s plan to register as a manufacturer.

“We’ve prided ourselves on customer service for years, and that’s not something we plan to just stop,” Heather said. “We’re going to do what we have to do to protect that.”

Danne Reinke said he feels the regulations are crushing our first amendment rights to tell customers of how vapor changed our lives.

“I think people are finally starting to get scared,” he said. “That’s what we need to see. That’s what gets them to make a call and get active.”

Corey Noles is the Editor

TPD Regulations Continue to Rock EU Vapor Market

September 27, 2016

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By Ian Jones

The summer of 2016 has been a rollercoaster few weeks for vapers in the UK and Europe. Despite fierce opposition, the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) began to be implemented in May, forcing vendors across Europe to adhere to numerous restrictions on the sale of vape gear and e-juice. Then in June, the British public voted to leave the EU, leading some observers to wonder if this could exclude the UK from these regulations. We spoke to various vape businesses in the UK and Europe, both big and small, to find out how it has affected them so far, and how they see the future of the vaping industry.

What Is TPD?

The TPD is a series of rules that place restrictions on the manufacture and sale of of tobacco and related products. In 2014 e-cigarettes were added to the list of products covered, under Article 20. This means all countries in the European Union (EU) have to regulate vape-related products in the same way as tobacco, similar to the deeming laws in America. Each EU member state can place further restrictions, but they all have to comply with the central rules of Article 20. Some of the restrictions include e-liquid to be sold in bottles no larger than 10ml, a maximum of 20mg/ml of nicotine, a ban on advertising and a ban on the sale of variable wattage/variable voltage devices.

Although Article 20 began to be implemented in May 2016, some countries adopted the ‘grandfather clause’ which means the regulations are phased in, to help vape businesses transition smoothly. The UK implementation has allowed for two grandfather dates. One allowing current products to be made up to Nov 2016, and the other allowing them to be sold through to May 2017.

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What Impact Has TPD Had?

Chefs Vapours are one of the biggest e-liquid and concentrates stockists in Europe, and were forced to make drastic changes in the wake of these regulations. “We decided to split our company in two to protect us from losing our business,” says Rhiannon, a spokesperson for Chefs Vapours. “We now have a food flavourings website which sells everything that does not contain nicotine, and a vaping website which sells everything that does contain nicotine.” The new flavourings website means this branch of their business will be safe by the time the laws are fully enforced. However, the ban on advertising has had an unexpected effect. “We have also had to stop advertising any vape related products but this has not affected business for us. We are improving in sales month to month.”

Tristan runs UK-based vape business Spiritus Vapes, and while he believes the grandfather dates were helpful, he has concerns for the future. “We’re a reseller of US products and realistically, most of them are going to exit the EU market rather than go through TPD registration.” Echoing the worries of many people in the vape industry, he says “As it stands we’re ok but May 21st 2017 will see almost every product we have on our site disappear overnight.”

Hing Wong runs the Cigtronica vape shop in Manchester, England. “In practical terms we will be reducing the number of items we will be selling, mainly the less popular flavour and strength combinations.” Despite this, he is less concerned about the other regulations relating to marketing, packaging and age restrictions. “There is little or no change as we have already adopted a responsible approach in these areas.”

Paul Willemsen is the CEO of Hisvape, a well-respected vape business based in Germany. He points out that while most vape businesses could survive the TPD legislation, the real danger comes from the ability of individual countries to impose further rules and regulations. “First they initiate the TPD, which most vapers could live with. But TPD leaves freedom for national governments to install even stricter regulations. Now there are countries which forbid online sales like Austria. There are plans to forbid most of the aromas, other than tobacco. Also there are big taxes raised in several countries, like for example in Slovenia, who are adding 4 EUR per 10ml.”

An opposing view comes from an unexpected source. Hon Lik, commonly regarded as the inventor of the modern e-cigarette, said in a recent interview that he believes vaping regulations will have a positive impact as they will increase public confidence in vaping and improve the quality of vape gear. However, it should be noted that Hon currently works for the Blu cigalike brand, which, due to their design, will be one of the least-affected by these regulations. Even so, Hon admits that these regulations may place restrictions on innovation in the vaping world.

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What About Brexit?

In June 2016, the British public voted in a referendum and made the shock decision to leave the EU. Some vapers see this as a way to block the TPD regulations. “This may change things as far as TPD is concerned, as we may not have to take on the same laws as the EU,” say Chefs Vapours, but they admit with everything happening so quickly there are no firm facts about what could actually happen.

Realistically, it doesn’t look promising. As it stands, Britain is still part of the EU and will be for at least two years, while exit negotiations are ongoing. The new vaping regulations will be implemented long before the UK leaves the EU, and while the laws can be changed afterwards, by that time the new rules will be in full effect.

Tristan agrees. “With public pressure and science on our side we’ll see things change, but the damage is already done. The onerous testing and reporting is here and will likely stay in one shape or another. The days of it being a cottage industry are gone.”

Paul Willemsen also believes that leaving Europe would not help, other than a protest vote. “Leaving the EU will not help our business in any way. The only way to show this group of corrupt politicians in Brussels that we are no longer interested in how they deal with us, is to leave the EU. But it would be a big fall back.”

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How Does TPD Compare to the FDA Deeming Regulations?

While things look gloomy for European vapers, they measure up well next to the stringent restrictions placed on American vapers. Spiritus Vapes CEO Tristan describes the FDA deeming rules as ‘mind-boggling’ in comparison. “With TPD, we’ve ended up with something that’s at least workable. Looking at the deeming regs I just don’t see how any company could possibly hope to make it through to the other side.”

Paul Willemsen sees the FDA’s deeming regulations as a sign of things to come. “It will not take long for the EU to take the same steps.” He points out that America and Germany are two of the major backers of the pharmaceutical industry, suggesting that their financial investment in tobacco-based products is behind the government crackdown on vaping.

Conclusion

It is clear that 2017 will see the European vaping industry undergo dramatic upheaval. Small businesses will be unable to afford the increased costs, and while delayed implementation has helped in the short-term it looks likely that only the biggest companies will survive the upcoming upheaval.

Even so, the TPD regulations are mild compared to the draconian restrictions being passed in America. “The deeming regulations are definitely worse,” says Hing Wong. “The federal agencies have taken a purist, almost ideological rather than pragmatic, approach to the issue.”

However, it is unlikely that vapers will take this lying down. After trying a sub-ohm vape, who would want to revert back to a cigalike? In all likelihood, the DIY scene will experience a boom as flavouring concentrates are largely unaffected, and seasoned vapers will take to illegally-importing their vape equipment from a country with fewer restrictions, such as China. It seems inevitable that the vaping regulations will lead to an increase in vaping goods on the black market, with much less quality control than we have now. This will put consumers at a much greater risk, clearly defeating the point of these regulations.

Anti-Tobacco Organization Threatens Scientist’s Career Ahead of Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum

CASAA_FB_PostOn Sept. 26, The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) wrote on Facebook that:

“Late last week, Dr. Christopher Russel (@nicotinesurveys on Twitter) along with others received warning letters about their attendance at this year’s Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF) in Brussels. The letter was sent from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) and a European anti-smoking group, ENSP. Although organizations like CTFK have perpetuated the narrative that ‘we just don’t know enough about vapor products and tobacco harm reduction,’ it is clear that their intentions do not include seeking more information. So much so that they are willing to threaten researchers who are working to develop an evidence base that may support harm reduction policies.”

For more on this story, please refer to the Jim McDonald article titled: “Scientist’s Career Threatened By Anti-Tobacco Organization”, which was featured on Vaping360.

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