Troy Johnston swears he wanted to play by the rules.
Johnston, who owns the Texas-based vaping company VaporSalon, tried to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines for selling e-cigarette products, which required all manufacturers to file paperwork known as premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) by Sept. 9, 2020. In these applications, companies were tasked with proving that their products were, on balance, good for U.S. public health—namely by giving adult smokers a less-dangerous alternative than traditional cigarettes.
As required, Johnston filed applications for all 47,000 nicotine e-liquids his company sells, an undertaking that he says cost his business thousands of dollars and countless hours of work. But he wanted a back-up plan, just in case the FDA’s decision didn’t go his way. So in August, he looked into purchasing synthetic nicotine—a product that some in the vaping industry argue the FDA doesn’t have the power to regulate as it does other e-liquids, since it is not derived from tobacco.