Ideas for columns come from many sources. At a recent vaping event, Gregory Conley, a well-known vaping advocate and founder of the American Vaping Association, condemned cloud chasers and actually chastised them on the showroom floor. His concern: they create a negative image of vaping and what it was intended to do. He may be right.

If we look back to the early days of vaping we were all in the same swimming pool. It was a playground with no laws, little regulations and very few guidelines. Those were free-for-all days where anything goes.

Along came restrictions. First with local cities that took issue with many things, including the notable increase of youthful vapers and the growing numbers of vape shops. They imposed restrictions, some more onerous than others. Many said “no vaping” in government buildings and no vaping in public. Some attempted to restrict vaping in a private residence.

States got on board the anti-vaping movement and usually started by imposing taxes on the industry. They have become more aggressive due to a lack of a national policy. That is about to change. To the swimming pool comes the lifeguard in the guise of the Federal Drug Administration. No more running at the pool. No more diving into the shallow end. This lifeguard is trouble. This lifeguard could virtually shut down the entire industry.

Different Vaping Cultures
There are two primary cultures and attitudes within the vaping community.

On one side are the “young;” the kids; the cloud chasers. They party, they play ear-splitting music at high volume and they dominate the consumer vaping market as well as many vaping businesses. Usually identified as Millennials or Generation Y, their typical age range is from the early twenties to the mid-thirties. But many are older and segue into the Generation X sector.

Though there are many that care about the newly updated FDA deeming regulations, few of them make note and even less get involved. They believe that this party will continue on as usual.

When asked if they are “worried” about the FDA, they naively state, “No, we’re fine. We’re manufacturing our e-liquids in clean rooms.”

Not only are they unaware of what truly constitutes a “clean room,” but they also don’t realize that the potential regulations go far beyond their little piece of the universe.

At a recent vaping expo a new magazine’s premiere issue was introduced. It was stuffed with photos of vaping clouds, pictures of cars, and scantily clad female models. It included a few very brief profiles of mod builders and cloud blowing competitors. This was a true “lifestyle” magazine with little content. It was mostly sizzle, and offered no constructive value.

It is obvious who it is designed to attract.

Many of the booths at this venue were not manned when the show floor opened and in some cases they were not manned at all during the consumer days. Some professionals in the industry had a hard time showing up at 10:00 a.m. and many cared little about sharing their products with consumers.

On the other side are the professionals within the industry. They are probably the minority. They run their businesses professionally and develop products in quality labs using Good Manufacturing Practices. They show up on time and are in this business for a different reason than those that come to party. Most are skewed older, but not always as there are some Millennials that defy their stereotypical images.

They may be motived by passion to help others quit smoking as many of them have done themselves. They could be seasoned entrepreneurs (Vapreneurs) that see opportunity and have little interest in cloud blowing or viewing scantily clad female models at vape shows. They are in this business to serve the profession and the public.

There is a chasm between these two mindsets and it is growing wider.

The (Potential) Future of our Industry
The Vaping Industry is in peril. That may sound dramatic and ominous but the FDA regs that have been sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are dangerous. Among other things it could:

• Disallow the use of flavorings in vaping liquid.

• Restrict sampling of products

• Make the cost of e-liquid production cost prohibitive and eliminate the vast majority of manufacturers.

• Force individual brick and mortar locations to institute changes that would shut down most of them.

It would firmly place vaping products in the same category as tobacco products and have similar or even worse restrictions. It could decimate a $3.5 billion industry and eliminate thousands of jobs.

The “line in the sand” between cultures is no longer a vague image, but is more pronounced than ever. For those in the industry that believe this “doesn’t affect you” and want to keep on partying and blowing clouds, now would be the time to get your head out of those clouds. Get involved. Run your business professionally and not like a hobby. Pay attention to the laws and the potential ones being discussed. If ever there was a time to become an activist, now is the time. SVBS

Norm Bour Headshot (Low-Res)Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and the creator of VAPE U, which offer online educational programs. They provide services & resources internationally for vape shops, online stores, and e-liquid brands. He also hosts Vape Radio, the number one rated worldwide podcast on business, plus offers interviews with the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Norm went to Washington, DC in December, 2015 to testify at the OMB hearings. He spoke of the economic impact of the new regulations and of the jobs that would be lost. He will report on that event in a future issue. He and VapeMentors also hosted a two-part FDA update webinar series with Azim Choudhury and Bryan Haynes, two of the top legal minds in the vaping industry. Those replays are available by contacting [email protected] Contact him at [email protected]