Vape resellers are in a frustrating situation. Public health authorities and institutions consistently ignore scientific evidence regarding the comparative advantages of vaping. The scope of misinformation thrown at vaping and vapers is so vast, and the opponents of vaping so well-funded and powerful, that it often seems futile to take any stand.
Expecting the US to embrace the more humane and effective approach of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), typified by their website “Vaping to Quit Smoking”, is clearly a pipe dream at this point. The US has taken the opposite approach, with a proposed federal tax that incentivizes cigarette sales and punishes vapers.
The stakes are as high as the taxes. And not just from a business owners’ perspective. Heavy handed regulations threaten to not only destroy jobs and entrepreneurs but will funnel vapers back onto combustible cigarettes. Misplaced concern over characterizing flavors is largely to blame.
Vape Flavors Driven by Adult Demand
Business owners know first-hand that vaping is a demand driven market. Adult vapers seek fruit and beverage themed characterizing flavors and consistently reject artificial tobacco flavored vapes. Studies as far back as 2016 showed that while many vapers initiate on tobacco flavors, a natural response considering the previous habit in question and the availability of tobacco flavored products at brick-and-mortar stores, the longer an adult vapes the more likely they are to reject using tobacco flavored e-liquids and disposables.
The upshot is that denying adults access to the flavors they prefer increases cigarette sales. The FDA’s own research shows this.
Fruit Flavor Fallacy
Yet characterizing flavors have been blithely dismissed and vilified by regulators and vaping prohibitionist politicians as being “more appealing to children”. The truth is they are simply more appealing to the human palate.
This may sound like a bold statement. If someone wants to disprove this, provide a list of products where flue-cured tobacco is an added flavor profile and compare this to the number of blueberry flavored items.
This may sound like a joke, as we are comparing addictive nicotine to harmless consumables like hard seltzers, wines, beers, hard alcohol, cough medicines and cannabis edibles, but the banning characterizing flavors is dead-serious for millions of vapers and has a real-world impact.
In areas where there is a flavor ban, one can find a one-to-one decline in vape sales and corresponding rise in cigarettes sold.
Business owners are on the frontlines when it comes to enforcing Tobacco-21 and keeping nicotine out of the hands of minors. Underage sales are an existential threat to the industry. Youth vaping is down for the fourth straight year. Enormous gains have been made with the total numbers slashed some 60 percent.
Yet this information is not widely known, as groups like the Bloomberg-funded and Orwellian-named Truth Initiative can afford endless paid media buys.
Anyone legally selling vaping products to adults through an established business knows that there are plenty of current vapers who don’t smoke and even more smokers who have been scared off vaping or denied suitably appealing products.
Vape prohibitionists, whatever their real motivations, claim to be fighting for the interest of children while denying adult access to the combustible cigarette alternatives they prefer.
Is it even possible to make your voice heard when it is so easy for opponents of the industry to pay for better ad spots or wheel out regulators who hide behind the “Appeal to Authority” fallacy while providing counterfactual narratives that fly in the face of the actual science they purport to “follow”?
What is to Be Done?
Here are some steps you can consider taking to advocate for the sensible regulation of vaping:
1. Vote and Participate in Elections
Use your right to vote and encourage others to do the same to elect officials who prioritize science-based public health policies.
2. Support Advocacy Groups
Join or support advocacy groups like AVM and CASAA, non-governmental organizations, or grassroots movements that share your concerns and are working to influence public health policy on vaping. These groups may not have the funding of the tobacco industry or Tobacco Free Kids, but they have science on their side and the fight for adult access is the fight for freedom and sensible public policy.
3. Engage in Civil Discourse
As a business owner, you have skin in the game and more credibility than a customer, who can be more easily dismissed as a mere nicotine addict and of no importance.
Open lines of communication with public health officials, organizations, or government agencies. There are many local level bans on flavors that simply passed without question because not enough people were asking questions or even aware it was up for a vote.
Politely and respectfully express your concerns, share scientific research, and ask questions to understand their perspective. Think global, or at least federal, and act local.
4. Improve Public Perception of Vaping
While we should be careful not to blame the victim, as most adult vapers have done nothing to merit having their freedom to choose the nicotine products they prefer stripped away by unelected regulators and uninformed politicians, it is very important that vapers and the industry comports itself in the most respectable way possible.
Anyone who was vaping six or more years ago might remember when some vapers delighted in using their products openly and indoors. That did not work out very well. The next issue that will be weaponized against vaping are pollution and litter.
5. Reduce Environmental Impact of Vaping
Disposable vapes are easily identifiable. So are their boxes and wrappers. Do not litter. Disposable vapes are lithium-ion powered electronic devices and should be treated with respect.
They aren’t to be spiked on the ground, stress tested to see how long they will fire, thrown into the gutter, and left within reach of children and pets. They aren’t to be opened on lark or modified. If recycling is not an option, drain the battery as much as possible before disposal.
Anyone who thinks that the waste and litter generated by disposable vapes is not going to be used by enemies of the industry to enforce more restrictions has not been paying attention.
This is an area where business owners can really make an impact. Simple signage requesting that customers do not litter the devices you sell or collecting the dead disposables of returning customers can be hugely valuable and help the industry put its best foot forward.
6. Share Your Story
As satirist Mark Twain pointed out, nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. Unlike alcohol, gambling, cannabis or sundry other vices, the folks with the power to ban vaping are largely unaware of why vaping even exists and why vapers are so defensive about having their access denied. Unlike these other vices, vaping is also a viable alternative with its competing nicotine product justifiably viewed as a great scourge.
The simple explanation for this systemic ignorance of vaping and vapers is that the wealthiest Americans ceased smoking decades ago. The people deciding the fate of vaping know few if any adult vapers. Share your story. Put a human face on what is viewed as an alien and seedy habit.
7. Share Your Customer’s Stories
As a business owner, you are on the front lines and can even share anecdotes from or about customers. Anecdotes aren’t evidence. But they are darn powerful and have been used to bludgeon vaping easily and with alarming regularity. Our stories need to be heard too.
Vape mindfully and discretely. Explain that no one who does not smoke should start vaping, but that even anti-vaping FDA leaders concede that it would be a net benefit if all smokers switched to vaping.
8. Support Vape Activists on Social Media
Share on social media articles and studies on vaping, there is a constant flood of information that paints vaping in a much more favorable light that most Americans never see or hear of. It does not take any work to share and help amplify pro-vaping content. There are groups doing the legwork. But without a chain of support, they are screaming into the void. You can also create your own pro-vaping content to share. New voices, responsible participants and creative endeavors can only help the situation.
9. Media Outreach
As a business owner, you have more credibility. We live in a society that respects entrepreneurs. Engage with journalists and media outlets to bring attention to the dangers posed by regulatory overreach. You can also tell your story in op-eds, letters to the editor, or appear on relevant programs to discuss the science and your concerns.
10. Advocate for Specific Policy Change
The general demeanor and attacks on vaping are well-established. Efforts to defend the industry work best when focused on specific agenda items, regulations, and pieces of legislation.
During the lawmaking process, demand transparency in the decision-making process and ask for access to the data and evidence that informs public health decisions.
Encourage public health officials to explain their reasoning and the basis for their recommendations to the public on social media channels and directly via email.
Engage with local, state, or federal policymakers to advocate for changes in public health policies or to create new ones based on scientific evidence.
If you believe there is a gap in research or data collection that’s hindering informed decision-making, support, or advocate for initiatives to address these gaps.
11. Legal Action
In extreme cases, legal action might be an option. You can consult with legal experts to explore whether there are grounds for legal challenges.
Patience and Persistence
Change can be slow, and public health decisions can be influenced by many factors. Be persistent in your efforts and continue to push for change.
It’s essential to approach this situation with patience and a commitment to constructive dialogue. Keep in mind that public health decisions are often complex, influenced by various factors, and may involve difficult trade-offs. Advocating for science-based decisions is crucial, advocacy is essential for fostering positive change. Advocacy holds governments and other institutions accountable for their actions. It helps shine a spotlight on unethical or harmful practices, leading to greater transparency and responsibility.
If you vape, advocate.