Today at 2pm EST, a Webinar was held by VITA (Vape Industry Trade Association) for manufactures, distributors, importers and retailers. The session was expected to run for 2 hours but the Q&A session extended that by an additional half an hour. I felt it would be a good idea to take some key points that I learned from the webinar and share it for anyone who missed the invitation or just wanted some cliff notes.
The initial portion of the presentation gave a lot of details about the structures of VITA, who is involved and how the voting share worked. This information has been shared several times both on www.vitaofcanada.com as well as previous articles that I have written.
The Q&A session is where I gathered more ‘new’ information and I was quite appreciative to see that some of the people asking questions held nothing back. The biggest concern that most seemed to have had to do with Big Tobacco companies being on the board. I’ll give a breakdown of the key points that I took.
VITA promotes Harm Reduction, Youth Prevention and Education. VITA does not support any sort of excise tax and that the sales taxes already applied should be enough (this includes a tax/mL). They are also not in favour of a flavour ban or further reduction on the 66mg/mL of nicotine ceiling. Flavours and appropriate nicotine strengths are paramount in the transition of combustible tobacco to vaping for many Canadians.
Mystery Shop Program
To help with the Youth Prevention and Education, VITA intends to start a mystery shop program to covertly learn about the policies in place to prevent young people from obtaining vaping products from retail outlets of all kinds. The purpose is not to police but to gather data and educate shop owners and their staff of the importance of keeping nicotine products out of the hands of young people.
Legal Funding and How It Is Spent
Initially, this topic was started by asking if VITA will issue Cease & Desists to media to prevent further misinformation about vaping and to stop lumping it in with black market THC cartridges. It was explained that damage has been done in this area and at this point would probably be a waste of legal funds that could be used elsewhere. Currently VITA is interviewing a series of lawyers to have one on retainer when needed. Should something like a flavour ban in a single province get through, if members vote to take legal action and file an injunction, that is what they’ll do. Similarly, that would also happen if a limit on nicotine was further reduced from 66mg/mL as some of the heavier smokers would require a higher amount to successfully transition.
VITA - The “Trojan Horse”
A prominent person in the vaping industry recently compared VITA to a Trojan Horse because tobacco companies sat on the board. VITA has been very vocal about why those companies hold seats and in what capacity, but to give the summary, here are the key points:
- No more than 3 of the 12 seats can be held by tobacco or tobacco affiliates
- The Voting power of tobacco and tobacco affiliates cannot exceed 20%
- Any board member who has some or all of their company purchased/owned by tobacco or tobacco affiliates will forfeit their seat on the board
- The three tobacco companies on the board are Juul, Vype and Logic
- Those three companies are subsidiaries of big tobacco but are operated as Vaping companies with the same interests as the rest of the industry
When the Trojan Horse comment was brought up, it was suggested that others in the vaping industry might feel more comfortable supporting VITA if they saw some proof that they are acting in our best interests. They questioner asked for progress on proposed flavour bans in some provinces. President Daniel David had a few points to talk about what has been done thus far:
- VITA has proven their ability to act quickly to put themselves on the map with media and parliament to address these concerns
- Currently in conversations with both Health Canada and Nova Scotia
- Actively receiving requests for comments about their press releases and having their comments published by other sources.
- The voice of VITA is being heard
Part of the problem was uncovered quickly as these meetings with province leaders began. Daniel David commented that he was shocked about the level of understanding about vaping products and its risks are quite low. The industry has done a good job educating policy makers in the past, but it hasn’t reached some of the higher levels of government.
Those who oppose vaping have simply been louder in conveying their concerns; first with the black-market THC cartridges and now targeting flavours as being the source of youth appeal. Education to policy makers on what vaping products are and how flavours have been vital in the success of many adult smokers switching to e-cigarettes seems to be what is needed to understand why our product has been marketed the way it has. The goal has never been to appeal to young people or non-smokers but to entice the alternative to adult smokers who have not been successful in dropping combustible tobacco in the past.
VITA does appear to be making a difference in educating policy makers and users alike with factual data. At the end of the webinar, they also invited people to continue to ask questions about the organization and plans to work with Health Canada and all levels of government to stabilize the industry and continue to promote what we all believe to be a less harmful alternative. You can forward any questions you may personally have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
True North Vapor