Entrepreneurs are a rare breed.
Entrepreneurs answer to no-one, but work hours that could only be enforced by the most brutal of bosses. They throw away the security of stable employment. They ignore the sometimes negative whispers of family and friends, only to sacrifice everything to ensure that they make a difference.
That desire to make a difference, to the lives of those addicted to combustible tobacco products, forged the beginning of the Canadian Vaping Industry. One entrepreneur at a time. Each one of them unique but all motivated to pioneer an industry from scratch. They worked from their homes, stashed inventory in their cars, and were the founding fathers of DIY. They ignored the people who laughed and shook their heads and forged a path for many of us to follow, including me. A way that led us to the GMP standard manufacturing practices our company follows today.
The next time you walk into your local vape shop, I want you to challenge yourself to a straightforward exercise: Ignore everything around you.
Forget about the next bottle of your favourite e-liquid. Stop yourself from asking 'what's new.'. Hold the usual chit-chat you have between where you just came from and where you're going next. Take a good look at the person standing in front of you.
Now. Take a deep breath.
Good. Now you're present. There's a living, breathing person in front of you.
What does it take each day for this living, breathing human to supply your next bottle of e-liquid? How many hours does it take to ensure staff get paid, to keep inventory in stock, and to monitor social media? How much effort is needed to research new products and educate the public? How does this person complete the extraordinary number of tasks that consume almost every hour of their existence? Then ask yourself how they can do it at all while bleeding on the battlefield.
Battlefield. That living, breathing person in front of you is dying.
I believe the Canadian vaping industry is at war with sensationalized media and an onslaught of misinformation. Illicit THC products have been reported as being linked to a rash of vaping related illnesses, and sales across the country are down as much as sixty percent. The media is not accurately portraying the facts to the public by categorizing nicotine-based products as part of the problem. People are losing their jobs. Stores are beginning to go out of business. Real people, like the one standing in front of you, are suffering. You might not see it yet, but every one of them is calculating how much longer they can survive if this continues. And the wolves are waiting patiently at the door.
Combustible tobacco sales are declining faster than ever, and Big Tobacco owned 'vape brands' are preparing to play three-dimensional chess with the Canadian Market. They'll fight just enough to keep the door open to legally sell products, but not enough to protect us all from their planned domination.
Let me tell you where I think things are going. It is my opinion that the infiltration of Big Tobacco in advocacy groups like VITA is just the beginning. Don't let the acronym fool you. VITA is a Trojan Horse to aid Big Tobacco in wiping up what's left of the competition after the battle. All it takes is to go to their website and see who sits on the board. JUUL, LOGIC, and VYPE have infiltrated the industry and are now using our key players as pawns to guide us to slaughter.
Now - They'll claim to be powerless in the organization while concealing that the real underlying weapon is to discredit our industry as a whole. It won't matter that they can't 'control' VITA because control is not the objective. The objective is perception.
Allowing Big Tobacco to represent our industry as partners in advocacy, grossly changes perception.
Health Canada and the general public will see our industry as being aligned with Big Tobacco. Negotiating power with the government will become non-existent. Progress from years of sitting at the table with leaders to legitimize our industry will be lost — the more money the organization spends, the higher the perceived offence. The Trojan Horse will unleash as our industry, the only genuine threat to Big Tobacco, becomes powerless. Hand in hand with the enemy.
But wait? Why would Big Tobacco want to make things complicated? After all, don't they sell vaping products too?
Complicated is what Big Tobacco does best. It takes deep pockets. Big Tobacco knows the vaping market is here to stay. While Tobacco funded groups like VITA push an agenda that seems to be in our favour, Big Tobacco will covertly declare the need for flavour bans and per millilitre taxation. All to combat youth uptake. A serious problem, no doubt one that they created, but something we need to fight as an industry ourselves. And it will work. Tobacco and mint flavoured products will be all that's left. The vape-store entrepreneur will become extinct as Big Tobacco controls the industry through the $97 plus billion grocery and convenience market.
If anyone thinks Big Tobacco will make an exception to its global domination tactics for Canada, then the joke is on us. A strategy for Canada will play, and public perception will take care of the rest. Canadian brands will suffer from affiliation with the enemy. The cost of running an independent business will far outweigh profits. One by one, the people standing in front of you will disappear.
We need to take action. Here's how you can get started.
- Educating the public is now more critical than ever. People need to know that illicit street vapes are not e-cigarettes. The recent announcement from the FDA advising people that use e-cigarettes not to return to Tobacco needs to be shared. Share everything. Look daily on google for news and start using your social media.
- Supporting your local vape-store is now critical. If you're a customer, continue to frequent their establishment. Bring your friends and educate others that there is a safer alternative to combustible tobacco products. Ask the owners how they're doing and then ask what you can do to help. Every little bit counts.
- Stand up to organizations like VITA. Let them know that we didn't spend years fighting against Big Tobacco to join them in making a mockery of advocacy. Ask VITA why Big Tobacco didn't donate money to the organization instead of receiving seats on its board of directors. Ask directors of the organization not affiliated with Big Tobacco to vote them from the table. If it's true that Big Tobacco has a minority stake in the organization, it will take only a single vote. Tell them you fear the very-likely backlash and black-listing of products and brands from association with the enemy.
- If you're a supplier, start contributing. It doesn't need to be money. Call the shops, see what they need. Share their social media posts. And don't just service the ones you know. Now, more than ever, every single store needs your help. Without them, there is no industry.
- Stay informed and inform those around you. All it takes is a few minutes on Google. Set Google Alerts, stay on top of what's happening in the U.S., and see how Public Health England works to promote that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking.
Now more than ever, it's essential for us all to join as an industry. If not, the death of this industry will mimic its beginning, fading to black one entrepreneur at a time.