Business As Usual At Tobacco Conference


WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum, unlike the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw, Poland (where I also attended and corresponded), is the world’s preeminent event for the tobacco giants like Altria Group and British American Tobacco. A showcase of the industry’s so-called social responsibility.

Honestly, the only reason why I traveled to D.C. for this event was due to the attendance of a few select speakers like Marewa Glover of New Zealand and

Ricardo Oberlander (Reynolds American CEO) started talking about his company’s social responsibility efforts. This, that. You know the spiel. However, I started to get angry with his words about regulations.

He started talking about his company’s social responsibility efforts. This, that. You know the spiel. However, I started to get angry with his words about regulations.

“Adults must have product choices that are sufficiently desirable so that they will make the choices inherent in migrating along the risk continuum,” he said. “This is the core of more choice, less risk. It requires insights into the preferences of adult consumers and also being pragmatic about our approach.”

This is a very socially responsible statement. Chances are, it truly is. However, what is troubling from Oberlander is the willingness exuded in his voice to comply with regulations. Don’t get me wrong, balanced rulemaking is needed to prevent adverse effects on populations. These regulations are useless, however, when they are designed only for billion-dollar companies who can afford Tobacco 21-linked customer loss or flagrant intent to demonize competitors who are unable to comply with the I had a lot to take in. I was able to hear the excellent addresses of independent experts like David Sweanor, Marewa Glover, Brad Rodu, David Levy, and others—the real reasons for my attendance at GTNF. All of them did a great job describing the science and epidemiological proof behind tobacco harm reduction and risk-reduced products. However, my anger about Oberlander’s words still coursed their way through my body.

Other players, too many to count

Companies like E-Alternative Solutions and Turning Point Brands aren’t small companies. However, these firms are independent manufacturers of mainly modified-risk tobacco products and smoke-free brands that are all in some capacity safer than traditional cigarettes. These companies have the ability to do something important. No, not be the next Juul. But, these companies are, though still controversial, are firms that I would much rather side with when it comes to standing up for responsible and balanced regulation.

Oberlander, a man that I have long despised during his tenure at Reynolds American, is not that partner to stand up for a reformed premarket approval application process.

Though it was off the record and merely a personal chat, a director of FDA Science from Turning Point Brands agreed with me and my concerns that these gargantuan tobacco companies will kill thousands of businesses by the design of a regulatory framework they can only afford.

Since this was an off the record conversation, I will omit this scientist’s name and much of what I am recollecting is very generalized and paraphrased. However, she told me briefly that she felt as if her employer could lose millions due to the costs of the premarket applications process.

This was the sentiment of many of the industry attendees to this conference. Everyone I interacted with in a personal capacity represented firms that are not owned by the typical tobacco-vape players. Yeah, most of these small and medium companies in attendance sell cigars, rolling papers, oral tobacco, and a plethora of electronic nicotine delivery systems (both pods and open tank systems). However, they are not Juul, Altria, Internalizing the industry’s pain

At the end of it all, the only thing that was prominent to my mind was home. My small mountain town of only a few thousand people. My fresh air. My wife. A hit of an NJOY (also independent of tobacco) disposable menthol vape. A pint of Miller Lite at the local bar.

In towns like mine, there are only one or two vape shops. They don’t stock Juul or really any product produced by companies like Altria, BAT, or Philip Morris International. These people make their own liquids. I know these people by name. They’re my friends. We have beers once a week.

The PMTA rules are too strict. These rules threaten my friends and the hundreds of shop owners that I’ve interviewed and worked with. How is that not a ban?

Why would you want to ruin that? Trump’s administration might be backing off from a flavor “ban.” However, the truth is that existing regulations will still force a massive market exodus of small to medium-sized manufacturers, local shop owners, and DIY mixers. Call it a premarket tobacco application. Call it a prohibition. It doesn’t matter. Because, at the end of the day, you are still forcing good honest companies to close down indefinitely.

The PMTA rules are too strict. These rules threaten my friends and the hundreds of shop owners that I’ve interviewed and worked with. How is that not a ban?

As I am finishing this piece, I am eating an atrociously disgusting Subway sandwich at gate Z7 in the Washington Dulles airport. Crowds are slowly trickling in to board a bumpy flight home. What are the odds these people even care about the issues facing nicotine users? Those odds are slim. I don’t say that to be condescending. I say that to further argue the point that groupthink in an echo-chamber can diminish innovation, public health applications, and improvements to the access of available alternative nicotine products.

Negative change is still coming

As I boarded my flight, my contacts in Congress all sent me notes from a hearing that acting FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless testified at.

After quickly reading through the transcripts they sent me, my mind was boggled. The commissioner categorically declared that flavors are not going to be banned, despite the rhetoric from the Trump administration and the tobacco-control community.

However, I was still uneasy. Sharpless still leads an agency that is tasked by law and various federal courts to regulate tobacco and nicotine products under the strict guidelines of the Tobacco Control Act of 2009. I quickly reformed my confusion and slight joy.

The flight attendants were doing their safety checks and tutorials for how to not die if the plane suddenly crashes lands on water.

I repeated to myself an evident truth. FDA still pushes prohibition, in some form or another. Don’t forget that the premarket approval process is a cost-prohibitive means to force the closure of the thousands of small companies that can’t afford compliance across the country. By design, prohibition is still coming. The Big tobacco companies, Juul, the Walmart of Vaping, and medium-sized firms if they are lucky will be the only players left. That isn’t right.

I was unable to sleep on the plane. Instead, I asked the flight attendant for two vodka cranberries (on Frontier Airlines, crappy Tito’s vodka shooters and watered down cranberry juice). I kicked them both back, closed my eyes, and thought about home.

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Source: VapingPost