New laws threaten vaping

Published 3:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2016

New FDA regulations would affect the sale of tobacco-less products, say local vape store owners.

New FDA regulations would affect the sale of tobacco-less products, say local vape store owners.

Proponents of tobacco-less products like e-cigarettes say new FDA regulations threaten the growing industry.

Gary Hudson, the operator of Southern Vapor in Troy, agreed that the regulations will have a major impact on the industry.

“If nothing changes, in two to three years, the vaping industry will be out of business,” said Gary Hudson, operator of Southern Vapor in Troy.

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Hudson is referring to new FDA regulations that group tobacco-less products like e-cigarettes under existing tobacco regulations. The regulations could prove costly to the industry, and the  Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama (BEAA) announced last week it plans to fight the measures.

“We firmly believe that the FDA’s proposed regulations fly in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and are a slap in the face to small business owners across this country,” BEAA President Scott Eichelberger said in the release. “… The United States government is issuing regulations that would make it almost impossible for the companies that manufacture and sell these products to be able to continue to operate.”

New FDA regulations would affect the sale of tobacco-less products, say local vape store owners.

New FDA regulations would affect the sale of tobacco-less products, say local vape store owners.

Hudson summarized the 499 pages of regulations.

“The first part is effective in 90 days,” he said. “It’s the same things we’ve already been doing, this just gives the government the authority to enforce it.”

Hudson said that “first part” requires stores to check photo IDs and blocks the giving away of free samples, the dispersal of products by vending machines, and the sale of products to anyone under the age of 18. Hudson said Southern Vapor voluntarily sets the mark at 19 to be consistent with Alabama tobacco regulations.

“Everyone around here is all for those things,” Hudson said. “It’s the second part that you can’t live with.”

That “second part,” Hudson said, sets a two-year deadline from the first 90 day period for manufacturers to submit a detailed report on each of their products.

The BEAA estimates that would cost up to $1 million per product.

“If I’m selling this e-cig here,” Hudson said, picking one up, “there has to be a report for the battery, the cover, the tank, what’s in the tank. That gives you an idea of what they’re asking for.”

Just two years after his son, Brock, started the business in Enterprise, Hudson said the store has seen more than a thousand people quit traditional cigarettes by using the electronic versions. They are commonly known as “vape” products, referring to the vapor inhaled by the consumer.

Hudson’s other son, Brett, the store manager of Southern Vapor in Troy, is convinced that many of the store’s customers would turn back to cigarettes if the regulation caused local area “vape” shops to close.

“I’ve already had one or two this week say ‘I guess I’ll be going back to cigarettes.’”

It isn’t just his customers that Hudson is concerned about.

“I would try not to start smoking again,” he said, “but I guarantee you I probably would.”

Hudson said Brock started the business after vapors helped Brock and their mother quit smoking. “We’ve both been smoking for over 20 years,” he said. “My mother smoked for nearly 45.”

Hudson said he’s now working to get off of nicotine altogether.

“I’m down to using 3 percent nicotine now,” he said. “I’ll probably be off for good by the time these regulations hit.”

Hudson said the store is focused on getting people off of cigarettes, and he doesn’t want people to start with vapors.

“There’s no reason to start anything,” he said. “Any chemical you put in your body is going to have an effect. The big benefit of vapors is for quitting cigarettes. From what I’ve seen, vapors are about 95 percent safer than cigarettes.”

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK, could save the industry by letting all existing products be grandfathered in, instead of the 2007 cutoff the regulations currently have.