As a practicing physician and a former small business owner, I have a unique perspective on the issues facing the vaping industry and how it should be regulated in our country. In 2014, I opened Smoke & Mirrors Vapor House in Murfreesboro after being exposed to vapor products from my patients and talking to them about less harmful alternatives to tobacco.
In addition to being a former small business owner, I currently serve as medical director of U.S. Health Works Medical Group. Understanding the health aspect as well as the economic impacts of this ever-growing industry is incredibly important as regulators contemplate changes. In particular, I support the Cole-Bishop bill in Congress that will protect this industry by amending the “predicate date” of the Food and Drug Administration’s vapor product rules and save thousands of American jobs and small businesses.
It’s a doctor’s duty to recommend the best ways to live a healthy lifestyle for his or her patients, but it is also our duty to recognize the realities of certain situations. In the case of patients who smoke, it’s important to note that vapor products can be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, as well as a tool for smokers to cut down their tobacco intake or even quit altogether. By passing the Cole-Bishop bill, the FDA retains regulatory authority of the vapor technology without stomping out innovation or taking away this alternative that many Americans utilize.
The vapor industry also provides thousands of jobs to Americans all across our country. If the Cole-Bishop bill does not pass and the “predicate date” isn’t modified, many of these jobs could be at risk. Simply put – products that consumers have been able to purchase for years may be taken off the shelves, making their options minimal at best.
Regulators need to recognize that vapor business owners hold themselves to the highest standards when dealing with these products. In my former vapor business, we exceeded manufacturing standards in our production, tested our products properly, and were incredibly particular about how the business concerned itself with safety. In addition, we made it our mission to educate individuals about this important industry and guided consumers so they could decide which products were best for them.
The options couldn’t be clearer on this issue. Legislators will choose between protecting consumer choice and ensuring vapor products continue to remain on shelves across this country, or they can allow an arbitrary predicate date to kill thousands of jobs and leave consumers with few alternatives to traditional tobacco products.
These days, our country may be more polarized than ever, but making sure that small business owners in this sector can continue to grow and keeping consumer choice alive is something that both Democrats and Republicans should agree upon. Speaking as a former small business owner and as a physician who has practiced for over 36 years, I hope our leaders in Congress will take action and support the Cole-Bishop bill.
Dr. Robert Cranfield
Medical director for US Health Works Medical Group in Madison, Tn., former owner and CEO of Tennessee Urgent care Associates, former owner of Smoke and Mirrors Vape Shop and a United States Air force veteran.