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.

Nighthawk E-Liquid Fosters Military Roots, Southern Flavor

February 6, 2016

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By Alyssa Stahr
Photos by J. Jones Photography

All Luke Tschantz ever wanted to do was be a pilot with the Blue Angels. Though he received devastating news that would end his dream, he didn’t quit. While stationed in Hawaii, he found vaping through Volcano, a vaping company, and took his love of aviation and vaping back to his home state of Iowa. After moving to Atlanta to finish his MBA, another dream was realized—opening an e-liquid company called Nighthawk ELiquid. Tschantz recently shared his tough road with VAPE, including his drive for success, having a military-owned company and bringing vaping to the Southeast.

VAPE: Can you take me a little more in depth about your background in the military?

Tschantz: I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, and joined the Army after high school. My grandfather and my dad both served in the military; I was not really interested in college, so I enlisted and joined the Army. I always had a passion for aviation, and wanted to be a fighter pilot one day. I realized that I couldn’t fly jets in the Army; if I wanted to fly, it was helicopters, and I wasn’t really interested in that. I got out after my enlistment and started school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the No. 1 school in the world for aeronautics and aeronautical engineering.

While I finished my degree at Embry-Riddle, I started to apply for the Naval Aviator pipeline for the United States Navy. I applied three times before I was accepted, and after I finished my degree in aeronautical science, I left for Officer Candidate School.

VAPE:And then your dream to fly for the Blue Angels was crushed.

Tschantz: During OCS, the flight surgeon found minor back injuries in my medical record and disqualified me for naval aviation. I was devastated from the news. The only thing I wanted to do in my life was to fly. To get that close and kind of have it yanked away—it was pretty difficult. I decided to re-designate as an intelligence officer and was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from 2011-2014.

VAPE:Having your dream crushed after being so determined must’ve been terrible.

Tschantz: The Navy flight program is actually one of the hardest things to get accepted to, and I think I was one of 50 people in the class that I got accepted to, and there were like 5,000 applicants. I was ecstatic at that point; I had worked so hard for this and I got it. Halfway through, they’re like, ‘We looked through your medical records and you’re still OK to be an officer, but you can’t fly.’ So, that was probably one of the hardest parts in my life to go through. Just the feeling of being defeated and not really having anything, not being able to do anything about it.

VAPE: And in Hawaii is where you found vaping?

Tschantz: In Hawaii, I noticed a lot of military guys using e-cigs as a replacement for cigarettes. I, myself, was an on and-off smoker for 10 years. I tried e-cigs in 2012, and was able to wean myself off of traditional cigarettes. While I was out there, I saw kind of the e-cig boon, especially in Hawaii with Volcano. What I realized [was] that [in] Iowa, where I’m from, there wasn’t any e-cig stores within a 100-mile radius. I would quit for a while and get back on. And the vapor products and e-cigs were really the only thing that helped me stay off. So, I approached Volcano at that time and I said, ‘I see you’re doing really well in Hawaii; there’s nothing back home where I’m from in Iowa. Can I distribute your products and have my own volcano store?’ They said, ‘Yeah, we can set you up as a distributor; there isn’t anybody in Iowa that’s carrying Volcano.’ In 2013, I opened my first vape store. I founded Hawkeye Vapor in 2013 while still serving in the Navy.

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VAPE: And then you decided to launch an e-liquid company.

Tschantz: After receiving multiple e-liquid samples from companies throughout my time owning Hawkeye Vapor Lounge, I realized that there were multiple companies that didn’t have great branding, and the e-liquid wasn’t the best. I thought that I could provide the vaping industry a better quality product, with branding that people could relate to in the industry. The military vape community is growing exponentially. I started doing my research for e-liquid labs and branding companies to start my own premium e-liquid line. We reached out to Showcase Marketing because of their work with Suicide Bunny, and had them design a militarized, aviation-type e-liquid brand. We launched Nighthawk E-Liquid in August, and got our first partnership with Vapor Beast in October. Next year, we are planning on doing all the major conventions and hope to increase the amount of international vape shops that carry Nighthawk E-liquid.

VAPE:Tell me a little more about your smoking journey and how you began trying e-cigarettes.

Tschantz: I was in Hawaii; I was working for an intelligence agency, and some of my enlisted members (so, the people that I was in charge of) started using these e-cig eGo pens. So, they brought it to me and I was like, ‘What is that?’ I was kind of familiar with it, but back in 2012 it was still pretty new. Sub tanks weren’t even around yet. They let me try it. I went on a search to try and find that specific one. It didn’t dawn on me that I probably could’ve Googled e-cig Hawaii and Volcano. I went around for a couple of afternoons to head shops and I was like, that’s not the one that I saw, and they were trying to sell me some other brand and I finally went into a shopping mall. And, Volcano, they kind of got their start in the kiosk side of the business. They later expanded to lounges. But, I ended up buying my first one and kind of went through the ranks of Volcano, and I really liked their products back in the time when there really wasn’t much other option. Then, I started to bring it home with me. I’d go home on leave and I’d come back to Iowa and my friends were like, ‘What is that, man? I’ve never seen anything like that.’ And a little lightbulb went off in my head that said, ‘You guys don’t even know what this is. It’s huge in Hawaii; it’s huge on the West Coast. Why can’t I bring this here and open my own business?’ And, so, that’s how I got started.

VAPE: So you moved back to Eastern Iowa?

Tschantz: I got out of the Navy and went back to Iowa and ran our vape lounge full time. I’m doing my MBA right now. When I moved to Atlanta, my goal was to either open a vape shop down here, or to develop our own premium e-liquid line. Once I got down here and got into school, I realized there are a lot of vape shops here, unlike in Iowa, where I was, like, the only one in the city. There’s probably 150-200 shops in Atlanta metro. And, I didn’t really want to be the new guy jumping into the pond with everybody else. That kind of solidified my quest to developing an e-liquid company. I still run the brick-and-mortar in Iowa. I have a great manager who does everything for me. I order all of the products and I do the payroll and pay rent and the bills. I spend the money and they go to work—it’s a good tradeoff.

VAPE: What were you finding wrong with other liquids that you wanted to change?

Tschantz: Owning the vape shop and being on the retail side for a couple of years, I saw what sells. I saw what flavors sell really well, so that was a good kind of inside knowledge for me to base our flavor profiles off of. I knew custards sold really well; some of the dessert vapes sold really well. I kind

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of saw everybody coming out with the same stuff. Everybody had a strawberry milk or a strawberry custard … everybody’s trying to, basically, copy everybody else. They see the success with the companies, and they say, ‘Well, I can do that, too,’ so they bring out strawberry milk, and there’s 5,000 different strawberry milks. I kind of knew what flavor profiles we wanted, but we didn’t want to do what everybody else did. So, how we developed the flavor profiles is that we had a manufacturing lab send us 30 or 40 different flavors, and we whittled those down to about 10, and we wanted to launch five. But, we couldn’t eliminate the sixth one. We couldn’t eliminate one, so we just decided that, hey, the six are so good, that we’re just going to do six. On the branding side, our branding has a fighter pilot-type military logo, and I think that best describes my background. I think that it can relate. Military guys can relate to it. People that go to air shows just to go see the Blue Angels, they can relate to it. It’s really edgy. It almost has, like, a video game, like HALO, first-person, shooter-type branding, and I don’t think anybody in the industry has a military geared brand e-liquid company.

VAPE:What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in making the liquid?

Tschantz: The challenges that I see is not only the e-liquid market’s pretty saturated, it’s the challenge of kind of going into vape shops and talking to owners and having a blank slate. Because, me, as an owner, we get samples every day. We get emails all the time—‘Hey, we’d like to send you this’–and we just kind of get blinded by all of these companies that are almost spamming the vape shop owners to the point where they don’t even want to hear it anymore. OK, you’re just another e-liquid company that’s soliciting me. So, that’s probably the hardest challenge. That, and being a brand that nobody really knows about yet. We’re coming around; we’re getting there. We’re getting a lot of face time on the social media platforms. People are asking questions. We did a really nice website; I think that set the bar for other e-liquid companies to strive for. If you look at the overall branding of e-liquid companies, it’s almost you have the ones that it doesn’t really seem like they put a whole lot of thought and work into it—just bad labels or the fact that they’re borderline copyright infringement. I’ve seen a lot of companies that are knocking off cereal companies. When we were in the development stage for branding, we didn’t just want to put Froot Loops on the label. We wanted to develop our own brand and to have a brand following—have people who look at the brand. I was really impressed with Suicide Bunny and the way that they did their branding. Cuttwood has a huge following—Cosmic Fog, Space Jam—so we kind of wanted to go that route and develop this Nighthawk brand that people can get excited about, and kind of feel like they’re a part of the Nighthawk family. We went through a company called Showcase Marketing. They’re unknown to a point, but they’re also very well respected with those that know their work. We partnered with them, and they’ve designed our entire brand from start to finish. The website, the logos, most of the Facebook images.

VAPE: Do you plan on working with any of the military in the future?

Tschantz: If we ever get to the point to where we do a follow-up line, I want to do some type of donation—a portion of that donation to some type of military cause. Whether it’s the Wounded Warrior Project—some type of non-profit that supports the military.

VAPE: So, you do have plans for expansion?

Tschantz: If the high-VG stuff sticks around, I don’t know if that’s bad or not. The cloud chasing stuff has been around for a while, but I think it’s going back to more flavor chasing. Or, looking for the flavor vapes. So, if there is still a high market for high-VG stuff, I think that would probably be our follow-up line, is do like a special-edition, high-VG line where five or 10 or 20 percent of the proceeds goes to such-and-such military cause.

VAPE: Regulations: Where do you stand?

Tschantz: How we’re going to deal with that, I think, [is] being responsible as a company in the e-liquid manufacturing game [and] making sure you don’t do any type of copyright infringement. Ensure that there isn’t any childish pictures or types of childish marketing. So that people take us seriously and not a bunch of renegades-a bunch of e-liquid companies that are marketing to children. So, we tried to stay away from that when we did our branding. I think that it’s going to be some type of regulation, but I don’t think the government is looking to put us out of business, per se. I just think that they’re trying to have this unrelated industry have some type of rules and regulations, which I think is appropriate for any company.

VAPE: Anything else to add about the line?

Tschantz: One thing that kind of makes us stand out is, because we’re based in Atlanta, we wanted to give the southeastern side of the U.S. something to root for when it comes to e-liquid. Most of the major e-liquid companies are based out of California. And, there’s really no up-and-coming e-liquid companies in the Southeast. You have Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina. So, what we did with our flavor profiles, is we kind of wanted to give, like I said, the southeastern side of the U.S. something to root for, something to call their home e-liquid company. So, most of our flavor profiles kind of have a southern feel to it. We have the Arnold Palmer lemonade iced tea, which a lot of people enjoy; Peaches and Cream; Caramel Cinnamon Roll; kind of the southern past things that the people in the Southeast kind of enjoy. That’s what makes us different, and we’re proud to represent Atlanta. There’s a big vape community that kind of gets overshadowed by the California vape scene, but the people here are really passionate about it.

For more information, visit http://nighthawkeliquid.com/.

Vape Expo Poland Announces Speaker Lineup

PrintVape Expo Poland organizers are glad to announce their speaker lineup for the conference:

  • Оliver Kershaw, founder, The E-Cigarette Forum and Vaping.com
  • Arnaud Dumas de Rauly – secretary-General Europe International, FIVAPE, will talk about product standards.
  • Hichael Hamomudi, CEO at Vape Consulting, secretary general of users at FIVAPE
  • Nick Littlebury, head of regulatory affairs, Diamond Pharma Services, will talk about regulatory Practicalities of Implementing TPD.
  • Peter Beckett, head of compliance at Nerudia, will speak on March 4. He will talk about the latest information on the upcoming regulations through TPD and what everyone needs to know.
  • Beju Lakhani, founder and CEO of Moshi E-Liquids, president of the Canadian Vaping Association, will talk about successfully implement technology and how to scale your business without going broke.
  • Pablo Cano Trilla, international legal analyst, Ecigintelligence
  • Daniel Irwin-Brown, EU/International market analyst, Ecigintelligence

To register at Vape Expo Poland click here.

See you at the Warsaw Expo on March 4 and 5.

Crowd Chasers: Professionalism is Intrinsic to Intrinsic E-Liquid Founder

February 5, 2016

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By Maria Verven

New E-Liquid Company Makes Big Waves Right Out of the Gate

The first question one might ask the owner of a new e-liquid company is: Why start an e-liquid business at this late a date?

Jodi Santino, co-owner and founder of Intrinsic e-Liquid, fired back a quick answer.

“When we attended the ECC show in 2014, we saw a lot of companies run by people who seemed very inexperienced with regard to the big business world,” she said. “It was like the wild, wild West. With my biotech background, I already understood the fact the FDA was coming, but it didn’t appear to be a main concern of many I met.”

After earning a degree in accounting and a master’s in international business, Santino and her husband/business partner both garnered years of business experience. “Thanks to our finance and biotech backgrounds, we understand what it takes to launch and sustain a successful business,” Santino said. “I have a knack for numbers. We bring more to the table than most.”

She continued to work full-time as a controller for a large insurance provider while writing the business plan for Intrinsic, finally quitting her job in June when they launched Intrinsic at Miami’s World Vapor Expo. Their debut was quickly followed by appearances at Chicago’s Vapor Expo and the ECC in Pomona, Calif.

Like many, Santino’s passion for the industry comes from having someone close to her die from smoking-related illnesses.

“I’m the epitome of the heavy smoker’s kid from the ‘70s,” she said. “My biological father passed away from coronary disease at a young age. When my little brother took up smoking, my mom and I were vehemently against it. At the end of the day, vaping helped him quit. That impressed the heck out of me because he had tried to stop on numerous occasions.”

Intrinsic’s e-liquids are made by a contract manufacturer in an ISO 7 clean room inside a cGMP compliant lab. “I got the impression at the 2014 show that if you used a manufacturing company to produce your juice, you were a poseur, a fake,” Santino said. “But, flash forward to 2015, and I’m amazed to see how much the industry has matured in just one year. People understand this is a serious business, and government regulations will be imposed to ensure the safety of the consumer.”

Intrinsic uses NicSelect USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia-grade) nicotine for all of its flavors. “It was not a hard decision at all,” Santino said. “We tested others. We weren’t going to mess with anything from China. We wanted something that was premium. Hands down, NicSelect is the best. It was almost a given, but we did our research. We let our manufacturer do some blending and testing and make sure it was all kosher. We’re exclusively using NicSelect and have no plans to use anything but.”

Intrinsic also uses USP kosher food-grade vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol in all its flavors; the mix is 70 percent VG, 30 percent PG. All Intrinsic e-liquids are diacetyl free and come in four nicotine levels: 0 mg, 3 mg, 6 mg and 12 mg.

Before launching their first three flavors, Santino pulled together a tasting group that included a local vape shop in Simi Valley and a circle of advisers. “The market is oversaturated with juice companies, but we feel our flavor profiles stand up and hold their own against the competition,” she said.

Thanks to aggressive outreach directly to vape shops, via distribution channels and strategic alliances, Intrinsic has made great headway in getting its e-liquids out in the market. Santino said they worked hard on the pricing structure “so everyone makes money up and down the chain.”

Intrinsic now is “firmly planted” in the areas where the vape shows were held; somewhere between 50 and 100 shops in Florida and the Carolinas, New England, Chicago and the Midwest, and all over the West, now carry the brand. Thanks to an aggressive international sales rep, Intrinsic now is carried in a dozen other countries, including Australia, Guam, Lithuania, Malaysia, South Africa and the U.K.

Santino attributes their early worldwide success in part to successful branding. “When creating a concept for our premium e-liquid, we turned to our city for inspiration. We took the city of L.A., the most photographed city in the world, and used it as our backdrop for marketing,” she said. “People all over the world want stuff that comes from L.A. It’s been a very pleasant surprise.”

The names of their e-liquids clearly reflect the frenetic pace of the city where they’re made: “Rush,” a blend of vanilla and mint; “Skyline,” a mix of lemon, dragon fruit and raspberry; and “Traffic,” their dessert blend of peanut butter and banana. “We sure stopped traffic with this flavor,” states the description on the Intrinsic website.

Santino said Intrinsic will be debuting two new flavors around Thanksgiving. They’re keeping the names and flavors secret for now, but there’s very little doubt they will be intrinsic to vapers’ tastes and the city of L.A.

For more information, call http://www.intrinsiceliquid.com/.

The original Vaping Vamp, Maria Verven is partner and chief marketing mentor with VapeMentors.

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Smart Spark Vape + Lounge Creates Spark in Summerville, Ga.

image002Smart Spark Vape + Lounge, the nation’s first franchised vaping concept, is continuing its statewide expansion with the opening of its newest location in Summerville, Ga.

The new shop opened on Feb. 1 and is located at 10100 Commerce St. This marks the company’s fourth location in Northwest Georgia and is representing a larger expansion initiative that calls statewide presence. The company plans opening as many as 10 locations in the Greater Atlanta area over the next few years.

To stay one step ahead of the curve, Smart Spark will be the first vaping franchise to control the production of its e-liquids. The Summerville location will feature an AEMSA-certified “clean room,” which was built in anticipation of upcoming FDA standards that allows Smart Spark to mix e-liquids in a controlled environment on site, which also will allow the company to control the quality and consistency of the e-liquid products. The shop will also serve as a distribution center for all Smart Spark lounges.

“With vaping becoming a healthier and more popular alternative to smoking, the FDA is putting restrictions on on-site e-liquid preparation,” said Smart Spark founder Jeremy Kwaterski. “Our Summerville location is an introduction to the new era for Smart Spark as we push ahead of FDA recommendations and manufacture our e-liquids with an emphasis on the strictest standards.”

Kwaterski founded Smart Spark Vape + Lounge in early 2014 upon learning his father had contracted stage 4 lung cancer. He was looking for a healthier way to get his father to stop smoking while still getting the nicotine he craved. Unfortunately, Kwaterski was too late to offer his dad help, and he passed away in early 2015. In his dad’s honor, he has made a commitment to help as many people as possible kick the cigarette and chewing tobacco habit.

Today, Smart Spark has established itself as the first authentic franchise brand in the vapor industry. The lounges merge an upscale atmosphere with a vape shop retail component, where customers can relax while enjoying a wide selection of premium juice and mod products. All of the juices—from apple pie and strawberry shortcake to blue raspberry and various tobacco flavors, among others—are 100 percent American made and the option to mix and create their own flavors. Smart Spark’s inventory of vaporizers represents a higher standard compared to other vaporizers in the market by focusing on quality and effectiveness. Smart Spark lounges also offer various food and drink options, as well as entertainment including arcade games, pool tables and juke boxes.

“We are excited to bring a smarter solution to smoking to the residents of Summerville,” Kwaterski said. “Making the decision to quit smoking can be a difficult journey for some, so we are proud to offer our customers the smartest e-liquids and vaping products on the market to facilitate their transition away from tobacco.”

About Smart Spark Vape + Lounge

Founded in 2014 by franchise industry veteran Jeremy Kwaterski, previous founder CPR Cell Phone Repair, Smart Spark Vape + Lounge is the first authentic franchise brand in the multi-billion dollar vapor industry, merging an upscale lounge atmosphere with a vape shop retail component. Having already opened three lounges in Georgia, Smart Spark launched its unique franchise opportunity in 2015 and plans to have a total of 150 locations nationwide in the next few years. For more information, please visit www.smart-spark-vapor.com.

 

A Sociological Response: is There a Vaping Documentary Curse?

February 4, 2016

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Words and photo by Tony Ottomanelli II

When contemplating the ideas behind my current short documentary project, titled “Who Are The Vapers?” I can’t help but wonder about whether my team and I will receive the overwhelming support I have anticipated. An article I wrote published in October’s Issue of VAPE was a clear indication that this film would be made sooner than later, but only with the support of the vaping community. We introduced the production of our film by creating social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about three months ago, as well as a YouTube channel and LinkedIn account.

“Who Are The Vapers?” now has a YouTube channel and a LinkedIn account, emerging as additional promotional opportunities in the social media realm. The fact of the matter is that an online presence is vital, regardless of which type of project it is. I assumed there would be an enthusiastic reaction from the vaping industry of widespread, immediate support. However, I must continually remind myself that it has only been three months since the film’s social media introduction and almost two months since the official announcement of our ethnographic documentary in article the October issue of VAPE.

The key word to reflect on in that last sentence is “ethnographic,” or the examination of broad culture sharing behavior of individuals or groups. I’m approaching this short documentary from a sociological perspective, conducting qualitative research while facilitating an observational protocol related to ethnographic methodology. Ethnography is a word many people are not accustomed to often hearing. Creswell said that it is a research method that is used by sociologists often when studying groups, organizations, and communities that are a part of a larger complex society.

What’s promising, however, is that this project could be published in the peer reviewed Journal of Video Ethnography, instantly categorizing the film as a valid social scientific study for academia to offer as a reference for students and faculty. Thus, our strategy of inquiry toward our research question is the ethnography, which is what uniquely sets our documentary apart from the others.

We plan to film interviews with individual vapers in order to capture their authentic and emotionally charged stories of how they were able to quit smoking by switching to vaping, taking us through their mental museum of past tobacco abuse. The backstory of any vaper can be riveting, and vapers are not usually ones to shy away from sharing their personal transformations. I have at least 10 interview subjects on deck, eager to begin this process. We can always use more supporters and volunteers.

“Who Are The Vapers?” could influence empathetic attitudes, thus creating more social approval of vaping nationwide. All things considered, even though I am optimistic about my project, I feel as if there is a stigma surrounding the act of filming an independent vaping documentary. Recently, I had a chat with fellow VAPE writer Susan E. Oser, known as Angelwriter in the online vaping show world, and she reminded me of the issues she heard about concerning vaping documentaries. She reminded me to look up previous projects, which I had done prior to our discussion, but I had not recently revisited that portion of my research.

I came across a once highly anticipated, feature- length documentary that has yet to release a single second of footage, titled “We Are Vapers.” Oser suggested there may be a cloud of skepticism among the vaping community, due to the fact that promises were made in the past and many pledged their support to a number of potential projects with little or no results. Unfortunately, for “We Are Vapers,” the filmmaker raised more than $20,000 for the documentary, yet no footage has been released and the website was deactivated. In an article online, writer Anthony H. states, “There is nothing to show for ‘We Are Vapers’ except a lot of excuses, a defunct website and a close- lipped attitude towards the community who donated nearly $22,000 to make it happen.”

Taking this into account, in attempt to garnish more support within our community, questions arose: Are certain vaping groups and individuals reluctant to show support? Is there suspicion with getting involved, all because of one past project that rose and fell so fast?

Don’t get me wrong; overall, support for our project is not entirely absent. We have attracted 1,000 Twitter followers @WhoAreThe- Vapers, but my expectations were much higher. Why wouldn’t my vaping documentary get more immediate attention and overwhelming support? Especially given the political climate suffocating the vaping industry and the genuine passion shared by all vapers. I can’t help but think of that failed feature -length documentary. Yet, the issue at hand revolves around my other questions as to why my own independent film has yet to attract the instant support it deserves. Something tells me, that one failed film can’t seriously be a factor. Then again, sociology would reply by stating, “It’s obvious that everything is connected within our social construction of reality, everything.”

Perhaps it is a major factor for my own challenges with the production of an independent vaping documentary. But if I’m going to think big, I need to look at the big picture. Perhaps the filmmaker was, in reality, honest with his intentions and totally underestimated his budget plan. All we can do is move forward and keep trying. The 2016 release of the feature- length vaping documentary “A Billion Lives” will show groundbreaking footage that serves as concrete evidence that hope remains steady for vaping as acceptable subject matter openly embraced by the filmmaking community. This particular documentary was funded by a major film production studio, and though they most likely had to overcome some obstacles producing their film, nothing will ever be more challenging than attempting to make a film independently. Fully funded by a major studio or not, I still respect their crew a great deal for their relentless dedication and courageous sacrifice. They’ve made history; it’s undeniable.

To all the vaping activists across the nation, it’s vital to promote vape education to gain more positive social expectation about this alternative to cigarettes. Ultimately, a newly acquired inhalation, a fresh taste of modernized elation. When all’s said and done, is there a vaping documentary curse? Not at all; some people just seem to take a turn for the worse.

Please feel free to contribute in any way: spread the word, follow our social media pages, contribute funds, sponsor us, vouch for what you believe in and do whatever you can to assist us in completing this film. Help this filmmaking vaper complete a documentary project consisting of artistic expression combined with academic research.

Tony Ottomanelli graduated with a Master of Arts in sociology from DePaul University. Ottomanelli also taught sociology at Owens Community College. He lives in Denver, Colo., where he pursues opportunities in sociology, writing and, of course, vaping, testing new vaping devices and e- liquids. Because the staff focuses on educating customers, Vaporleaf off Colfax in Denver is his favorite go- to shop.

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