Reversing a trend – An Interview with Chris Dodge
As our Industry grows and matures, it will bring people from other parts of the economy and hopefully, these people will add to the growth and longevity of Vaping. One such person is Chris Dodge, Chairman Emeritus of International Commerce Development and a 25 year international trade expert. We had the chance to ask him some questions and his thoughts on the industry and its potential.
DAVE: So, Mr. Dodge, what brings you to our Industry and what can you do for it?
Chris: Thanks Dave, please call me Chris. What I bring is the chance for folks to grow their business internationally and do so in the most cost effective way. I came to this Industry because my son Derek has benefitted from Vaping and I see its potential.
DAVE: There are many fast moving changes coming, what do you see as our strengths and our weaknesses?
Chris: The strengths are obvious, there are multiple Objectives in Vaping from plain old recreational enjoyment without Nicotine to helping folks stop smoking. The weakness is there seems to be no clear leader helping to create a clear message.
DAVE: We have a few great associations like SFATA, they are helping to create standards.
Chris: I had the chance to talk with some of the good folk at SFATA and it seems like their focus is entirely reactionary and domestic. They told me that at this time they just don’t care that more and more markets are being closed to all vaping as they are focusing on just what is happening in the USA and that is a recipe for disaster.
DAVE: How so?
Chris: One can be reactionary or proactive, reactionary means one is always responding to the message that someone else is dictating and being proactive means one is creating the message and then the narrative. One thing I am trying to do is to clarify the way we identify nicotine and non-nicotine based products. This will help clarify the message to our standards.
DAVE: Yes, we published your article about that and want to know more as to why it is important.
Chris: Think of it this way. As this Industry grows, there will be more and more products that are made for the specifics purpose of a particular market. This industry started as a counter culture reaction to smoking and there are many great product lines that have nothing to do with that. They might be all natural, non-nicotine based products that serve to bring some therapeutic benefits to people and there are some companies that are marketing themselves as a 21st century answer to such cultural things as Hookah and such. Again, not taking away from the people that started everything but this industry must realize there are profound differences in products and help governments to know.
DAVE: Why is that so important? We have people that believe in free markets and less regulation not more.
Chris: Just like the Buddha, we must take a middle path. In the past, there was almost no regulation and we are seeing an overreaction by many governments to it. Regulations can be a very positive and productive thing for honest companies that want to provide good safe and beneficial products. Right now I am trying to get people to understand that in more and more markets ALL products are being banned because some folks just want to make a quick dollar while they can. Like my article wrote, it is one thing to sell grape juice in Dubai and another to try to sell wine. Nicotine is not the enemy here but it can be used to make too broad a brush for other products and we must as an industry, find something to stop and reverse the trend of banning all vaping in markets. I believe I can reverse the trend in Dubai and in that part of the world if I can find the right companies.
DAVE: Why should the average Vape customer care?
Chris: Great question. They should care because we in the USA are the leader in this Industry and if we want to stay that way, we must engage international markets and government and regulations and provide that leadership for our growth. We can either be a fad that started an industry for others to grow or we can continue to lead and grow and create more and more jobs and exports. I have seen the many benefits of exporting from strengthening a company to providing a chance to add more kinds of products to having products become cheaper using economies of scale. The average person wants to know that the Brand they like today will be here tomorrow and will continue to lead the way.
DAVE: Thank you for your time.
Chris. You are most welcome and I welcome any and all questions you or anyone may have.
Chris Dodge is the chairman emeritus of International Commerce Development and the director of global business development for the Gulf Beauty Association and Ambassador to the Arab Business Club in Dubai.