Last Updated on November 14, 2019 by

Could Regulators Push The eLiquid Market Underground?

Despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to confirm the future regulatory structure for the electronic cigarette industry, the current suggestions out to consultation have been described as harsh by many critics. It is the array of charges, delays and registrations which would appear to be favouring the larger electronic cigarette companies of the day but there are concerns that the FDA could be going too far. One particular area of major concern is the eliquid market which will come under an array of new regulations regarding strength, flavourings, accept.

So, could the FDA, and other regulators around the world, push the eliquid market underground?

There are no regulations underground

We saw the publication of a recent forum survey which took in 10,000 online participants and covered the issue of eliquids and future regulations in particular. It appears that 79% of those who took part in the online survey confirmed that they would consider looking to the “black market” if they were to see their favourite eliquid and tomorrow.

In reality it is no surprise to see a significant number of participants suggesting it would look elsewhere for the “overregulated” the liquids with the figure of 79% is very much towards the top end of expectations. As a consequence it looks as though the FDA in particular has lost control of the electronic cigarette and eliquid markets and perhaps needs to take a more balanced approach to the future regulatory structure?

An illegal market would be a disaster

While it is obvious that an illegal market in banned or restricted the liquids would be bad news for regulators and the authorities fact is that it would be a disaster for the vaping community. If the eliquid market in particular went “underground” this would expose the vaping community to low quality and potentially dangerous products due to the lack of regulation and sampling. The potential knock-on effect in terms of health and safety would create a situation far worse than anything “under regulation” would bring.

The authorities have so far refused to discuss the potential for an underground market in eliquid, if future regulations are overly restrictive, but this is something which they will need to address in the short to medium term. We now have tens of millions of members of the worldwide vaping community and whether regulators and authorities around the world like it or not, this is an industry and the community which is here to stay.

Regulators always behind the curve

While European regulators have also been relatively slow to react to the growing electronic cigarette/eliquid market they have at least been a little quicker than their US counterparts. The matter which way you look at it, regulators around the world were caught very much by surprise by the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes/eliquids and are still behind the growth curve. The voice of the vaping community continues to grow louder something which is finally been noted by the political elite.

It will be interesting to see the final regulatory structure proposed by the FDA because we will no doubt see a number of amendments and adjustments to the initial ideas. If regulators around the world have caught the industry at a relatively early stage they could have dictated the regulatory path but this position of strength is not appear to be available today. Time was lost by the likes of the FDA trying to ban electronic cigarettes out right just a few years ago, something which resulted in a long drawnout legal battle and an eventual U-turn by the administration.


In many ways the vaping industry sneaked up on regulators such as the FDA having been under the radar for many years and then all of a sudden exploding onto the worldwide scene. Regulators around the world are now playing catch-up while the size of the worldwide vaping community continues to grow. Vaping enthusiasts now have a voice, they have a purpose and regulators would ignore them at their peril. Finding a balance for the long-term regulatory structure of the industry will not be easy but the risks associated with overregulation, and an underground market, far outweigh the downside of a light touch regulatory regime.

Mark Benson

Mark Benson is a contributing author for Spinfuel eMagazine. His continuing columns will bring a levelheaded approach to the dynamics involved in realizing a positive future for the e-cigarette industry. For more information on OK Eliquids and other products available please visit the OKCigs website.