Don't Get Smoked Out by E-Cig Regulations

Leading manufacturers encourage retailers to take proactive stance

Published in Tobacco E-News

By  Melissa Vonder Haar, Tobacco Editor

LAS VEGAS -- With anti-electronic cigarette regulations running rampant on the state and local level, it's no surprise that local legislation was a hot topic of the "Smoking Out Electronic Cigarettes" session at this year's NATO Show; however, it was a little surprising that competing e-cigarette companies like Logic, Lorillard, NJOY and Reynolds are uniting to combat unfair regulations.

"There has been collaboration and conversations between us," said Miguel Martin, president of the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Logic Technology Development LLC. "While we'll continue to compete fiercely for your business, on these issues, we are very much aligned. There will be many situations coming up where (we) will be working together with retailers."

One thing Martin and other representatives agreed on was that overall, the industry has been too reactive, too passive in allowing for these regulations to be imposed before the public has been truly educated on the realities of electronic cigarettes.

"We're not being as proactive as we could and should be," said Stephanie Cordisco, president of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., Winston-Salem, N.C. "Being able to have a voice and help shape the outcome--versus having the outcome shape us--is critical."

Vito Maurici, senior vice president of sales and distribution for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY, noted it was especially critical for retailers to get involved on the local level, where oftentimes such regulations are voted on with less than 24 hours of notice.

"Oftentimes with elected officials, there's an absence of information," he continued. "Therefore, they take the path of least resistance. It's very dangerous because ultimately, these kinds of regulations absent of science could make it easier for people to continue to smoke."

"Whether we win or lose, it's important for our voices to be heard," said Joe Murillo, president and general manager of the Richmond, Va.-based Nu Mark LLC, a subsidiary of Altria. "Otherwise, the only voices (regulators) will hear are those who want to outlaw this industry."

Unfortunately, now that cities like New York and Los Angeles have set the standard, many others are following suit--with elected officials not wanting to put their future on the line by opposing such measures.

Science, however, is often on the side of e-cig proponents: and companies like Altria, Reynolds and NJOY all offer position papers and talking points to make the case against public e-cig bans or extreme taxation.

"The other side of this has all of those things ready to go; make no mistake that is what they're doing," said Murillo, pointing out that Altria has an employee dedicated to helping retailers fight back. "We're trying to give you a counter to that."

These e- cigarette companies were also united in their support of federal regulations, believing national guidelines will ultimately help--not hurt--the industry.

"We look forward to deeming regulations," said Maurici. "If nothing else, this will allow local legislatures to know the FDA is on the job and making sure that those in the industry are conducting themselves responsibly."

Maurici was speaking about reasonable, science-based regulations such as age verification and best manufacturing processes--a far cry from the extreme measures e-cigarette opponents are calling for. That is yet another reason why it's important for retailers to get involved, especially during the public comment period on proposed deeming regulations.

"I really encourage retailers to participate," Martin said. "It will play a role because in many ways, your opinion will carry a lot more weight than manufacturers."

"You're in the unique position for being closer to consumers," agreed Murillo. "W