Vape shops have a problem on their hands, and boy do they know it. We feel their pain. In principle it’s hard to see any part of the electronic cigarette revolution be so constrained to the point that they may not be able to help people any longer. More and more that seems like it might be the case, with vape shops taking the brunt of new FDA regulations that are official as of August 8th.
In case you haven’t been up on the news or are new to vaping, the FDA took well over a year to come up with deeming regulation for electronic cigarettes. They were finalized last October and ever since there has been a war of words on what this would mean to the ecigarette industry. The new FDA regulations will place vapor products in the tobacco products category, but they’ll still be faced with extra hoops to jump through.
This could mean a major change is coming for vape shops that are used to being able to stock a range of products, along with helping their customers. That’s because any new product will now have to go through an application process at the FDA, which is slated to cost about half a million dollars. You read that right, half a million dollars! That’s for each product too – even each ecig flavor and nicotine level will be considered it’s own product. While Big Tobacco ecig brands will have no problem footing the bill, smaller brands will.
That includes many of the eliquid vendors that vape shops rely on. They’ll need to have many applications in place for the different flavors they carry, and that is a large amount of capital to come up with.
Vape Shops Yield to Online Shops?
For vape shops this is going to be a very precarious time. They’re going to have a lot of pressure to maintain their product line and service to their customers, while facing obstacles because of the FDA. “Several vape shops have gone out of business” explained Pat Shehan. As the owner of the Tarheel Tobacco retail chain, he’s seen firsthand how vape shops have had trouble with a lack of resources to stay open.
Some customers are also worried that vape shops won’t be able to help them they way that they are used to. Chris Neapolitan is one of them. He was quoted in a local news outlet saying, “Them not being able to service their customers with help, like rebuilding of coils, rebuilding the units for us, to help troubleshoot them when you have problems.”
The truth is we don’t know how things will play out quite yet. Existing products have been given a three-year allowance for remaining on the shelves while they are being put through the FDA regulatory gauntlet. But many may decide it isn’t worth it. If vape shop owners begin reeling from lack of inventory and extra expenses, it could mean a real contraction in that part of the ecig industry.
What we may be seeing is a return to online shops that can cater to the need of vapers. The industry really was kick started with the expansion of online shops for ecigs, with vape shops coming in later to provide another avenue for folks to check out electronic cigarettes. A migration back to online shops is a very real scenario.
The good thing is that there are many ecig brands and online shops that will be able to fill the needs of consumers during this period. Due to less overhead and more inventory space, online shops are uniquely positioned to continue providing great products at a good price. Vape shops add their own element, that’s for sure, but online shops have been doing this longer and will be ready to step in and help out those customers.
Either way, we’ll be watching how this plays out. The electronic cigarette industry is in for some changes. Let’s just hope they end up being for the better for consumers like you, and consumers like us too.