DuBOIS – Cheryl Jones, co-owner of “Keep It Rolling Tobacco and Vape Shop” in DuBois, said she has everything invested in her business.
Her employees, she said, are like family, and she believes that the vaping supplies they sell at the store help people keep off regular cigarettes.
But she is concerned about new federal rules for electronic cigarettes. She thinks the regulations could close the doors of her shop, which she owns with Jim Gerber and Shirley Applegate, in the plaza beside the Carmike Theater.
“It will kill me,” Jones said. “It will take small businesses out.”
She believes the rules will take out 90 percent of the products in vape shops.
If these products disappear, she believes vape shops like her store will close.
“Pretty much, I’ll lose everything,” she said, wiping tears. “I’ve got my life savings in this place.”
She also fears that people will go back to regular smoking, if no vape shops are open.
‘Sweeping new rules’
What is causing all the concern is an announcement by the federal government of what the Associated Press said are “sweeping new rules” for electronic cigarettes.
An AP article said the rules “will for the first time require the devices and their ingredients to be reviewed, a mandate that could offer protection for consumers and upend a multibillion dollar industry that has gone largely unregulated.”
The AP report notes that before brands are allowed to stay in the market, regulators will check the e-cigarettes’ design and the liquid nicotine they contain.
For now, e-cigarette users may not see big changes, the AP reported. According to the AP, companies have two years to submit their information to the FDA and another year while the agency reviews it. The AP said the review process applies to products introduced after 2007, which includes nearly all of them.
When asked for comment, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, based in Medford, N.J., said “e-cigarette” is “kind of used as a catch-all term in journalism for the entire sector.”
He said the FDA claims that the rule brings “virtually the entire category” into its jurisdiction.
Conley said this includes any product containing nicotine, such as bottled e-liquids and cartridges for cigarette lookalike products, as well as devices, batteries, coils, tanks, cotton, etc.
“The only thing FDA has said it doesn’t have authority over is nicotine-free e-liquids,” he noted. “And even then, the FDA says that it can assert jurisdiction over the product if the agency believes that it is ‘intended or reasonably expected’ to be used with nicotine.”
He said that “potentially every vape shop in the country” could go out of business as a result of the new rules.
“The agency’s requirement that every vapor product on the market go through a retroactive pre-market tobacco application will be a killer of both jobs and smokers,” he said in an emailed statement. “Each application is going to cost at least $1 million and there is no guarantee your product will be approved. Twenty-seven months from now, Big Tobacco will likely hold the vast majority of the market as a result.”
He contends that a shortage of products sold at local vape shops could result, thus driving them out of business.
“That is what is going to kill over 10,000 small businesses,” he said. “If the entirety of the vapor category can fit in on the back shelf of a 7-11, there is no point to vape shops continuing to exist.”
‘A fighting chance’
Still, there is hope.
Conley said he thinks a bi-partisan amendment, contained in a House Agriculture Appropriations Bill, at least gives vape manufacturers and retailers “a fighting chance.”
The amendment would allow products already on the market to stay on the market, but still be subject to regulations, he said. Currently, the review process applies to products introduced after 2007. The amendment would change that to a date in 2016, he said.
Information provided by Conley notes, “Moving the predicate date forward merely allows products on the market as of the predicate date to forgo the millions of dollars in costs associated with the PMTA (pre-market tobacco product application) process. This will enable tens of thousands of small businesses in the vapor industry to stay in business without eliminating the ability of the FDA to set standards.”
The amendment was passed out of the appropriations committee and is currently awaiting a vote in the full House, he said.
At her DuBois vape shop, Jones is hopeful about the amendment.
“We’re hoping that’s what happens, but you never know.”