SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The FDA’s regulations that effectively deem electronic cigarettes as tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act went into full effect on Monday, changing the way local vape shops such as Sunshine Vape in the South County Commons and Coastal Vapes in Narragansett operate.
Prior to Monday, the electronic cigarette industry was largely unregulated: businesses creating the devices, “juices” and accessories were able to do so without any approval from the FDA or safety testing from any third-party organization. That, now, has changed. While the regulations do not apply to products created before August 8, any new products will be subject to scrutiny and testing by the FDA. Vape shop owners and advocacy organizations say the testing is too expensive and are discouraged by the necessity of testing each nicotine level variation, bottle size, or flavor customization individually.
“While the FDA can attempt to stop innovation in the United States, it will be unable to stop it from happening throughout the world and on the gray and black markets,” reads a statement from the American Vaping Association on the matter. “Continuing to innovate products intended for the legal United States nicotine market will be extremely burdensome and expensive.”
Besides the lab testing and individual flavor testing, the FDA regulation bars vape shop employees from physically assisting customers with troubleshooting their devices. Because this now constitutes “manufacturing,” employees will have to demonstrate troubleshooting techniques to customers without touching their devices.
What vape shop owners claim is an integral part of the vape shop experience – testing flavors before buying – has also been restricted. The FDA regulations do not allow any form of “free samples,” even if the samples of the flavors do not contain nicotine. Customers will now be charged a per-visit fee of $1 in order to test the flavors of e-juice they are considering purchasing.
Also as on Monday, vape shop employees are no longer allowed to inform their customers of any of the following:
That the primary purpose of electronic cigarettes is to provide a safer alternative to smoking.
That electronic cigarettes do not contain any tobacco and are therefore a tobacco product only in an legal/regulatory sense.
That electronic cigarettes contain much lower levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines and other carcinogens than tobacco cigarettes.
That electronic cigarette use is much safer than smoking.
“This starts the countdown to the death of an industry,” said Darin Tripoli, co-owner of Sunshine Vape, Tuesday morning on the deeming regulations. “Because of the FDA, people will die. That is undeniable.”
The next deadline for those in the industry comes Dec. 31, when manufacturers and importers must register their manufacturing establishments and products with the FDA in order to continue selling past that date. There is no fee for this registration.