Starting August 8, new rules for e-cigarettes are in effect. They're designed to keep the products away from minors and to reveal what's in the liquid being vaporized.
Inside a north Austin laboratory, employees with the American Vapor Company produce up to 10,000 vials a week of what’s called e-juice; liquid that’s laced with nicotine. The lab opened a year ago after company owner Darrell Suriff was convinced the e- cigarette craze was not going to be a passing fad.
"And it was a costly expense, but it gives us the satisfaction of knowing we are producing a quality in a safe environment,” said Darrell Suriff.
Suriff has built a $12 million a year business shipping product to three different countries as well as selling it in 24 stores domestically.
"We do believe regulation is good, to some extent, we just want to make sure it’s fair,” said Suriff.
As of Monday morning, the FDA will review new tobacco products not yet on the market. The agency will also investigate claims considered to be misleading, and evaluate ingredients which have to be disclosed. Suriff says the rules not only outlaw sampling and tasting. His employees can’t talk about how vaping may help someone stop smoking - or even show customers how to use and trouble-shoot devices.
"When it comes to battery safety we've taken the stance, we are going to show them how to use it, because despite the rules we want to make sure there is no issue with battery safety which is number one, put them in wrong and you could cause a fire,” said Suriff.
With the rules now in place undercover operations have also started. Stores are being checked for documentation that the bottles they have are certified as child resistant and that they are keeping minors out.
"The first violation results in what we call the warning letters, simply a letter from FDA to the retailer that says you broke the law, we are going to be back and if you break the law again and there are going to be fines and starting with the second and the subsequent violations,” said Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA’s center for tobacco products.
The crackdown, according to Justin Suriff, has already resulted in a complaint at one of their stores. A customer, who looked too young, didn't have ID and had to leave.
"He was a regular customer. But you still said no? We still had to say no, we have to ID that customer every single time and even if they are a regular customer we have to ID them,” said Suriff.
Despite the new regulations, the Suriff's are planning to open 4 new stores. They're counting on the feds to ease up on some of the administrative restrictions that they estimate could add millions of dollars to their operating costs. If not they predict small businesses will fade away leaving big tobacco and pharmacy giants in control of the industry.
The FDA regulations also include closing a loophole that actually allowed minors to buy tobacco; specifically tobacco for hookah, pipes as well as cigars.