The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday 19th October that it will begin collecting data about the sales of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in the United States, as the basis for the sales, marketing activities and expenditures of our “new and complex industry”.
While they are currently seeking clearance from the Office of Management and Budget, the first step in this process, they are already preparing to publish a Federal Register Notice requesting public comments from the marketers of the electronic devices, looking to sample from approximately 5 large and 10 smaller companies.
What The FTC Wants To Know
The topics the FTC seeks comment on include:
- Whether industry members can provide data that distinguishes between, among other things: 1) direct sales to consumers (e.g., online sales) and sales to retailers and distributors; 2) sales and giveaways of disposable e-cigarettes and sales and giveaways of refillable e-cigarettes; 3) the various combinations of sizes, flavors, and nicotine contents of their e-cigarettes and refill cartridges and e-liquids; and
- Whether the FTC should seek to collect data according to: 1) the various types of products sold and given away by industry members; 2) the various flavors and nicotine strengths of those sales and giveaways; 3) the various sizes and liquid capacities of disposable e-cigarettes, cartridges, and e-liquids sold and given away; and 4) whether the company sells directly to consumers or to wholesalers and distributors;
- The need for the study and the practical utility of the information collected; the accuracy of the Commission’s burden estimates; and ways to enhance the quality and utility of the information collected and to minimize the burden of that collection;
- Whether the FTC should seek data on state-by-state sales of e-cigarettes and related products.
The job of the Federal Trade commission is to protect consumers from fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices and they are asking the OMB for a 3 year clearance to collect this information. In the Supplementary Information section of the Federal Register document they clearly state:
For many years, the Commission has published reports on sales and marketing expenditures by the major cigarette and smokeless tobacco manufacturers. The data contained in those reports are based on information submitted to the Commission, pursuant to compulsory process, by the largest domestic cigarette and smokeless tobacco manufacturers. In the past few years, sales of battery-powered devices generally referred to as electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes” have grown rapidly in the U.S. Rather than burn tobacco, these devices heat liquid containing flavorings and chemicals (usually including nicotine) to produce an aerosol that is inhaled, and then exhaled, by the user. E-cigarettes, which are sold both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, are available in both disposable and refillable models, in a range of nicotine strengths (including nicotine-free), and in a multitude of flavors; some companies allow consumers to order individually customized flavor and nicotine content combinations. Given the increasing prevalence of e-cigarettes alongside conventional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, the Commission believes it is necessary for the agency to begin collecting information from e-cigarette marketers about their sales and marketing activities.
The Reports Purpose
While the tobacco industry is currently under massive regulation as far as advertising and marketing methods go. The electronic device industry is largely unaffected by those regulations as it is an entirely separate entity and wishes to remain that way, regardless of many governmental attempts to throw it in the pile with the industry it was designed to eradicate.
In essence, this study may not directly affect any future regulation from the FTC but it will be shared with other government agencies such as the FDA and Congress to aid them in their decision-making processes.
While the actual process of collecting this data may seem innocuous, I find it hard to place trust in any form of government when it comes to vaping. The data they collect will show that we love our flavors and that the nicotine content in our e-liquids are low to begin with and get lower over time. Rather than approaching this as electronic devices being on a level playing field with combustible cigarettes, the United States Government should being this, and all future studies on a premise already reached by our cousins in the United Kingdom: vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking
Unfortunately, until that day, many vapers (my self included) will believe that any study proposed by the government has the end game of either taxing us to death or destroying the industry.
As always, enjoy your vaporizer and vape safe!