How Omnibus Bills Killed Vaping

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How Omnibus Bills Killed Vaping

A Brief History

You might be aware that vape shops can no longer ship products through the normal channels. You might also be aware that as an industry, we have had to deal with more and more taxes over the last two years. What you might not be aware of is the ridiculous amount of excel spreadsheet reports, state licenses, consumable nicotine taxes, and out of state escrows we have been dealing with behind the scenes. The Covid19 relief bill that passed the House and Senate in December of 2019 set in motion a tidal wave of new requirements, taxes, paperwork, and red tape. The thing is, nobody knew it had happened. I called my representative, and the callback from the staffer was extremely disappointing. The bill had been a late inclusion buried on page five thousand and something. This massive change to our industry had gone by unnoticed by the very people voting for it. This isn’t something new by the way. Omnibus bills happen, and things are horse traded in and out all the time. However, this was my first experience seeing how this kind of legislation can impact industry.

Chuck Schumer
Photo by: (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

What about 2022?

Here is the bad news. It’s about to happen again! Due to the current overseas conflict and current government spending deadline, the federal government is one again about to vote on an Omnibus bill. They are focused on a war abroad, a possible government shutdown, and another twenty two billion in Covid relief. “I believe both sides are close, very close, to arriving at an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on the floor Monday afternoon. What they probably don’t know and won’t discuss is the ban on sythetic nicotine introduced by those financially supported by Big Tobacco. Inside Health Policy reported today, “Lobbyists expect Congress’ omnibus spending package will include language giving FDA authority to regulate synthetic nicotine”. “The nicotine language is included in a draft of the health portion of the omnibus legislation, which was obtained by Inside Health Policy Tuesday morning (March 8) as lawmakers were closing in on a deal on the broader spending bill”. The language gives a 90day period for the industry to rid their shelves of this apparent loophole. Bypassing the argument over how FDA gets and enforces it powers, I’d like to focus on the fact that this type of legislation is so far removed from what we are taught in school. Sliding these bills in at the wire to something impossible for people to possible read before a vote is disheartening at the very least for a citizen of this republic.

Inside a Vape Shop

What’s going to happen to my local shop?

So, what would this mean for the vaping industry? Well, for starters your local vape shops would have a bunch of empty shelf space. Not many brands have made it through the FDA’s PMTA process or are still in that pipeline. Almost no house juice made it passed the first cut, though lawsuits abound over the way that happened. FDA itself admitted to getting it wrong. So, that leaves only a small amount of premium brands that would be available for sale. Many shops have already gone out of business since 2016, and I was at least hopeful that the loss of E-commerce might give those shops struggling more foot traffic from their local vapers. However, without house juice or at least a wide range of products to sell, the ways a shop can survive let alone differentiate itself become pretty slim. Will it be the end of the industry? Of course not; but it will shake the industry to it’s core, and ‘Main-Street’ local shops will be hit hardest of all.

Omnibus bills might be needed in times like these; but the behavior of our representatives to sneak in niche agendas is not ok. We need to make more people aware of this kind of legislation so more eyes will be looking for it. If it’s happening to our industry, it’s happening to ten others. The more we call it out, the more likely it might become an actual voting issue, and they will think twice before showing up on some watchdog website somewhere. In any case, this is the story of how two Omnibus bills either killed vaping, of made it what it is in 2023. Stay safe out there!

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