E-cigarette retailers nationwide breathed a collective sigh of relief last week as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg withdrew a proposal to ban the display of all forms of cigarettes in stores. The ban, which was designed to reduce impulse buys and exposure to minors, would have severely damaged business for convenience stores and other markets, retailers argued.
Leading manufacturers such as US based BluCigs and UK based Vapestick were closely watching the action in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg has become known for his anti-cigarette initiatives, but only recently have his attentions turned toward non-tobacco products. The mayor also proposed limiting the availability of flavored cigarettes and successfully put into motion a measure that requires New York City customers to be 21 to purchase any type of cigarette.
If passed, the measure would have prohibited New York City-area retailers from displaying cigarettes where customers would see them. Retailers would have been forced to hide both tobacco products and e-cigarettes from customers’ view, only bringing them out upon request. This “out-of-sight, out-of-mind policy” would cut down on purchases, proponents of the measure believe, and prevent underage consumers from seeing them.
During his time in office, Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives have made national headlines. He launched a National Salt Reduction program that sought to lower the amount of salt used in both restaurant and packaged foods across the country. His call for a citywide ban on super-sized sodas gained national attention, especially when parts of it were recently overturned due to unconstitutionality.
A leaked draft of bills being pushed by Mayor Bloomberg revealed the mayor is attempting to limit the availability of flavored cigarettes in general, allowing only menthol- and tobacco-flavored cigarettes in retail locations. Flavored cigarettes, like the ones that make up the majority of e-cigarette marketing, would be relegated to the few remaining tobacco bars in the city. After 2001, new tobacco bars were not allowed in the city.
E-cigarette supporters saw the proposed measure as a de facto ban on the devices, which have helped some tobacco smokers quit. Because there are so few tobacco bars in the city, consumers desiring extremely popular flavors like the caffeine-enhanced Dark Roast will be challenged to find the e-cigarette liquid they prefer.
In 2012, cigarette smoking rates dropped for the first time in seven years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. At the same time, “vaping” is at an all-time high, with sales of electronic cigarettes passing the $1 billion mark. Sales of e-cigarettes are expected to overtake traditional cigarette sales by 2047, with FDA regulation not expected to have an effect on sales.
The e-cigarette industry also brings big bucks in advertising to major media, with major e-cigarette retailers spending millions of dollars this year on print and electronic ads. FDA regulation is expected to negatively impact that ad spending, since attorneys general from 40 separate states have called for the FDA to rule to treat e-cigarettes similarly to tobacco-based cigarettes. Tobacco advertising is now prohibited in most venues in America, including on television, in magazines, and on billboards.
Many in the industry feel the withdrawal of the retail display ban in New York City offers a reprieve for the e-cigarette industry. A new mayoral election is underway and most feel that Mayor Bloomberg’s successor will not be as vigilant in the battle against food, soda, and cigarettes as this administration has been. Still, the FDA regulations stand to make big changes to the industry.
Electronic cigarette starter kits retail for between $20 and $200, with each cigarette providing nicotine through vapor. This process removes many of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco-based cigarettes. As a smoking cessation tool, e-cigarettes provide smokers the ability to gradually reduce nicotine until the substance is reduced altogether.