While the future of vaping remains uncertain, what we do know for sure is that the final quarter of 2019 has been a tumultuous one.
The threat of a federal ban was swiftly followed by the implementation of bans across the country at the state, county, and city levels.
There were casualties. Some businesses were destroyed while many others were driven to the brink who are just now beginning to pick up the pieces and rebuild..
However, despite the massive impact the recent spate of regulations have had on this industry, many of us are still here. Still standing.
We have gone toe-to-toe with the most powerful and wealthy adversaries imaginable (The U.S. Government, Big Tobacco AND Big Pharma) and it is only through our coordinated effort that we have managed to fend them off so far.
In fact, our efforts have been so successful that we were actually able to persuade the president of the United States to walk back his initial threat and invite our representatives to the table to hear our side of the story. This is no small feat and we should be proud of the fact that we were able to make it happen.
However, there is a new rift starting to develop within the vape community that, if left unchecked, threatens to undermine all that has been accomplished so far.
There is a growing number of vape advocates who have begun calling for the ban of online sales.
They claim that they are willing to make this compromise because they feel that online retailers are the source of many of the issues that our detractors claim to care about, such as youth vaping.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of vape advocates who are calling for a ban of online sales are those who either own, or work for, a brick & mortar shop.
If you happen to be among them, I am urging you to please stop for a number of reasons.
For starters, online retailers aren’t the problem. The majority of products sold by the largest online vape retailers are open-system. These aren’t the products kids are using.
Second, it feels very opportunistic. Yes, it is never fun being undercut. But using the current situation to try to get rid of your biggest competitors is more than just a little underhanded and is no different than what JUUL is doing.
Third, if you feel like your biggest threat is online retailers then it might be time to look at your approach to business in general.
The best shop owners know that while they may never be able to compete with online retailers on price, there is plenty that they can offer that the online shops can’t.
Customer service and a personalized touch go a long way in the vape community. We are hobbyists at heart and we all love the chance to talk shop with other enthusiasts whenever we can. Vape shops offer this opportunity in ways that simply aren’t available anywhere else and vapers are willing to pay a premium to get it.
And finally, if we begin breaking off into factions we are doomed to fail. It is imperative that we maintain a united front and online sales cannot be the hill that any of us choose to die on.
While many shop owners are all for banning online sales, the overwhelming majority of consumers are not. To continue to push for this will only serve to divide us and as President Lincoln so aptly put it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
We have a long fight ahead of us against a number of enemies, any one of which has the ability to annihilate the vape industry on their own, and if we hope to stand a chance we must stick together. There is absolutely no room for dissension at the moment.
If we can’t find a way to set our personal agendas aside and come together to fight this battle, then the vape industry is destined to be destroyed and ultimately it will be nobody's fault but our own.