As we enter the Ides of March, much has happened that shifts the landscape of vaping laws and regulations. So much so that the industry is left this week with more questions than answers; both nationally and locally.
March has been marked with several announcements, a couple of which are major in implication. One proposal that trended was President Trump's budget proposal which calls for federal excise and user fees on the vaping industry. The proposal is far from final, but it lays out a troubling position of raising taxes on the industry and its consumers.
The biggest and most shocking announcement of all seemed to be the resignation of FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. The announcement, which happened on March 5th. Gottlieb was seen by the industry as a mostly positive force at the agency. It was Gottlieb's delay of regulation deadlines and his open-mindedness toward harm reduction that won him much favor among businesses and consumers alike. Gottlieb was one of the first and most prominent political figures to actually speak to the benefits of vaping vs. smoking.
His biggest ire was undoubtedly the rise in underage e-cig usage. The FDA released a few reports that showed an upward trend in use by those under the legal age to do so. His legacy will understandably be a mixed record depending on which affected party you ask.
Replacing him for the time being is National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Ned Sharpless. Sharpless has supported Gottlieb's efforts and has praised his work in helping cancer patients throughout his tenure. Sharpless and Gottlieb are both on record as saying the FDA will continue on the path and guidelines set out under the current administration. Industry leaders wonder whether Gottlieb's full-time replacement will share his perspective, that vaping is an effective and important tool in the fight for public health.
These changes have created plenty of uncertainty as to the FDA and the Federal government's position on the future of vaping. This week a new draft guideline was released, detailing the FDA's plan for removing flavors from retail stores; meaning only dedicated vape & smoke shops would be allowed to sample flavors and vape inside the store.
State Law Shakeup
Here in Minnesota, we've had some sort of vaping law, tax, or rule change on the session schedule almost every year; and 2019 is no different.
Just yesterday, the MN House of Representatives passed HF 349, which, among other things, revises the Clean Indoor Air Act to include vaping; banning it everywhere cigarettes are banned statewide. The bill passed by a vote of 100-25 and now moves to the MN Senate, where it will make its way through various committees on its way to a full floor vote.
T21 has also come before the state legislature and is expected to be quite a fight. So far in the state, T21 has a success rate of less than 50% at the municipal level. Supporters of raising the age hope to sew together the patchwork of laws and create a uniform rule for nicotine access statewide.
Among the big news and personnel changes, Vaping (both consumers AND businesses) have a new ally in the fight: The Midwest Vapor Coalition. Executive Director Cap O'Rourke says:
"This new group was founded by four vapor business entities that committed to ensuring that Minnesota's Vapor businesses have representation at the State Capitol since the beginning of the 2019 session - and will continue to have representation."
MVC was born out of efforts from previous advocacy organizations such as the IVRM and numerous regional retail shops and manufacturers.