Like many other areas around the country, the first types of vapes to hit the streets of Northwest Indiana were cig-a-likes. Examples of these devices are Mark 10’s, Blu’s, and the Vuse. Unfortunately, the technology on these devices had a long road ahead to finally catch on and make their way into smokers’ daily lives. I remember buying my first cig-a-like at the Southlake mall for $120, using it for a week, and then switching right back to cigarettes. They were ahead of their time. For as expensive as they were, they just didn’t work. The first dedicated vape shop opened in Valparaiso in 2012. They offered a variety of different hardware, and mainly carried their own blends of eLiquid. This was a huge benefit to the community seeing as before this shop opened, most eLiquid you purchased was coming straight from China and the devices were limited. As time progressed, you started seeing more and more shops pop up. The industry started to truly catch on in 2014. By the end of 2015, the area had over 10 shops in a 30 mile radius. Vaporz Vault, the store that I manage, took a different approach to the area and opened as a lounge. Instead of walking in, buying your goods, and walking out, we welcomed people to come hang out, try as many liquids as possible, and learn as much as they could about the products they were using. Samples were free, juice was plentiful, and cloud competitions were roaring. However, like every other great industry, the government wanted to get involved.
As of July 1st, 2016, Indiana became the first state to regulate the eLiquid market. “Save the children, protect public health, eliminate tobacco from our lives!” were all facades this bill was passed under. At the end of the day, it was all just a money grab for the state. This controversial bill, HR 1432, created a monopoly. Where there was once thousands of eLiquid manufactures distributed in the state, six companies were able to get a license and remained after this bill came into effect. In order to get a license, the juice manufactures had to sign into a five-year contract with a security firm that could provide casino-style security 24/7, employee someone who is licensed in steel rolling doors, and finally have an employee that is a master locksmith. Why is this important you might ask? Well, there is only one company in the ENTIRE United States that could provide this type of security... And who would have guessed, that security firm is located in Indiana.
This security company gave their business to six manufactures, shutting their doors to every other manufacture that wanted to acquire a license. Someone’s pockets got lined, and it wasn’t to “protect” public health. The bill was so uncanny that the FBI started an investigation on the parties that were involved. Unfortunately, for the industry, nothing has come to surface yet. Not only did this affect national companies that have been distributing to Indiana for years, this eliminated brick & mortar stores from mixing their own eLiquids. The impact of this bill was detrimental to every vape shop in the state, and many shut their doors. Not only did it hurt the retailers trying to keep their doors open, the consumers were no longer able to get their favorite flavors. Blacksheep Vapors, previously located in Highland, IN, shut their front doors on July 1st and hopped the Illinois/Indiana border to avoid the law. Although many shops and consumers advocated against the law, the industry lost the fight.
If the state regulations were not enough, the Food and Drug Administration dealt a major blow to the vaping industry on a federal level. On May 5th, 2016, the FDA finalized a rule to include all vapor products under “The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.” As of August 8th 2016, vapor products are now considered tobacco products. A product that contains absolutely no tobacco regulated as one. Surely, money had nothing to do with this one, right? Wrong. The tobacco industry and pharmaceutical companies have seen major losses since vaping has picked up. They needed to get their share of the market, or regulate it out of existence. Well, they chose the latter. With the way the ruling is set-up, it is estimated 99% of all vapor products will be illegal by the end of 2018. The biggest impact of these regulations is helping people with their devices. According to the new laws, shops can no longer take a hands-on approach to setting up people’s devices for them. If someone has an issue with their device, we have to verbally talk our customers through it to trouble shoot the problem. As simple as these devices are designed, there is still a learning curve to the majority of them. So now, these healthier alternatives became less welcoming toward new comers.
In the European Union, doctors are advocating for these life-saving devices. The Royal College of Physicians, who back in the 1960’s, initially released research claiming the terrible health effects of cigarettes, and released a report in 2015 boasting that vaping is 95% healthier than smoking a traditional cigarette. However, here in the “Land of the Free”, vaping is being regulated out of existence.
There are advocates all over the country fighting for our “Right To Vape”, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the next two years has in store for the industry.