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Are Safer Vaping Products on the Horizon in the U.S.?

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Exploding e-cigarettes, battery safety issues, it seems like every week we’re inundated with a news story about someone being seriously injured by e-cigarettes. While current safety and education on proper use is something the team at Cyclops Vapor is happy to share either in person or over the phone, the fact is that safety is something that can always be improved upon.

And — those products are here — or are they?

They are, sort of. NBC News shares the exciting news that the first vaping products specifically designed to prevent fires and explosions — even safety-certified by UL — are scheduled to hit the market, however only in Canada. Why not the United States, then? Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, told NBC News that the Food and Drug Administration is part of the cause.

“They have us locked into antiquated technologies,” he said. “The U.S. government is suppressing innovation in a way that can only harm consumers going forward.”

The UL is a global safety company that tests and certified consumer products, and with a safety standard now for e-cigs, one would think the United States would be on the forefront of that innovation. However, Joshua Church, major manufacturer and Southern California-based Joyetech’s chief regulatory and compliance officer says that the company’s product that meets the UL standard won’t be sold in the United States, only Canada. The eGo AiO is indeed UL-certified, and Church says Joyetech took the certification route to protect American consumers. “But, we can’t sell directly to them,” he told NBC News. “We’ve been frozen out of the U.S. market by the FDA whose last concern is product innovation. So, we’re sitting here stuck in the water.”

Michael Felberbaum, FDA press officer, told NBC News: “The FDA shares concerns about adverse effects associated with the use of e-cigarettes, such as overheating and exploding batteries, and the agency has taken several steps to address the issues.” While public workshops and education are great, the FDA’s current regulatory climate hardly paves the way for innovative products. The sale of new and modified products — including batteries — not sold in the U.S. prior to the Aug. 8, 2016, date without pre-market approval is prohibited. This leaves little room for modern, technological innovation since the process is lengthy and expensive.

NBC News says that manufacturers aren’t willing to go through the costly and time-consuming process until exact rules are finalized, which if given the history of the vaping industry, is much slower than innovation itself.

Abboud said, “Technology innovates in cycles of months, not years, so the products being sold today were first designed almost three years ago. Manufacturers have developed and are selling products in other parts of the world that have safety designs and safety protections in them, but we can't make any changes to those products here in the U.S. without going through the FDA’s multimillion-dollar multi-year PMTA process.”

The American Vaping Association told NBC News that most vaping accidents are caused by improper use. Greg Conley, AVA president, said, “When stored, used and charged properly, vaping products pose no more of a fire risk than other products powered by lithium ion batteries, like cellphones and laptops.” Vaping batteries are indeed different than consumer product batteries, and vapers should educate themselves on proper use and storage. However, safer, innovative products would be wonderful if the United States could catch up to Canada.

Abboud had the final word on this topic: “We’re a technology industry, and our hands are tied behind our back. We have solutions that will protect people to bring to market and we can’t.”