By COOPER SLOUGH
The promise of new regulations by the Food and Drug Administration regarding nicotine juices for electronic cigarettes – commonly known as e-cigs – has local businesses concerned about damage to their bottom line. Theresa Herlocker, owner and manager of Grasshopper Vapes, 706 Vine, believes that while some regulation is necessary, over-regulation by the federal government could hurt the market and drive smaller shops out of business.
By the end of September, the FDA is expected complete new rules that would require federal approval for all e-cig devices and flavored nicotine juices sold in vapor shops such as Grasshopper Vapes. The approval process will cost an estimated $2 million to $10 million to collect necessary data and submit an application for each item. That price tag is expected to push the cost of the juices and accessories up dramatically.
“There should be regulation,” Herlocker said, adding juices “should be made in clean rooms and batch tested.”
“It’s when they get to the point of just trying to get rid of (vaping) because cigarette companies or big pharmaceutical companies say so that I don’t agree with,” she said.
And Grasshopper Vapes is not alone. Over the last four years, the vapor business has grown from a $1 billion industry to a $3.5 billion industry, with over 8,500 vapor shops springing up across the United States. That growth might not last long however, as the Smoke-free Alternatives Trade Association, a lobbyist group representing vapor shops and manufacturers, estimates the new legislation could put 99 percent of the industry out of business.
“A lot of (juice manufacturers) have already been working with the FDA trying to get things straightened out,” Herlocker said.
“Juice” is industry slang for the liquid that is used in e-cigs and vapor pens, which contains vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavoring and often nicotine.
Negative reports regarding e-cigs and vapor pens are ample, but new studies are starting to emerge that point to several potential benefits of using vapor pens over traditional cigarettes.
“I haven’t had a cigarette in over a year,” Herlocker said. “Some of my clients have point-blank asked their doctors whether or not vaping is safe, and (the doctors) said that while they would rather them quit completely, vaping is better than smoking.”
For the moment, however, it seems that vapor shops are here to stay and, for users who have quit traditional cigarettes, that is a good thing, according to Herlocker.
“It’s designed for harm reduction, that’s all,” she said. “We don’t have long-term studies, but they’ve already proven it’s a lot safer than cigarettes. That’s what it comes down to, and that’s why we opened.”