The E-Cigarettes Wild Wild West Days
Today’s Opinion Piece by John Manzione rambles from over-reaching administrations, global debt, China problems, and safe eCigarettes. Does it all tie in? Read on and judge for yourself.
One day a few weeks ago I tried to do the impossible. I sat down at my computer at home and typed in “eCigarettes” into both Google and Bing. The results returned hundred of thousands of results, as expected, and more than 500 eCigarette brands.
500 eCigarette Brands. In the United States alone.
My first, immediate thought was “How can they all make money?”
The truth is, they can’t. The “Big Shakeout” is coming. It always does.
I’m not giving any timelines here, it could happen this year, next year, or 5 years down the road. It depends entirely upon the condition of the US and the Global Economy in 2013 and beyond, and if the purchase of Blu Cigs by Lorillard turns out to be a smart move or a 135 million dollar blunder.
And let’s not forget, the current “transformative” administration occupying the White House, if reelected to another 4-year term, will make the last 3.5 years of “transformation” seems as though it were running through molasses. You’ll see changes to the fundamental laws of the country that it will make your head spin. And not in a good way.
Probably half of you hope the current occupants remain in place. That’s cool, we don’t mind. We’re libertarians, not conservatives, so both ideologies have major faults. Having said that, if the current administration stays in power than plan on paying equal amounts for eCigarettes and tobacco cigarettes. (Neither party would ever have a federal ban on either product because the tax revenue is too vast for tobacco and too enticing for eCigarettes. Both will be around because they need to feed over-bloated monstrosity of a government the taxes that could be raised.)
4 Billion Dollars A Day Is Borrowed By The US Government
Tobacco and eCig taxes are too vital to the “machine” to be banned.
So where does that leave the eCig companies out there that are spouting up like weeds? Here’s my scenario:
Most of them won’t last more than a year. Some will merge (smart), some will tough it out till end (not so smart) and others will go so far into debt that they’ll declare bankruptcy. A few will become bigger players; a small portion of them will flourish. A tiny fraction of those will go on to be absorbed into Big Tobacco.
This needs to happen, of course, but it needs to happen through the actions of the customers, the marketplace, not the government.
It’s the Wild West in this industry right now. How do consumers protect themselves from the carpetbaggers and the snake oil salesmen?
Profit Without Integrity
Beginning earlier this year many retail locations have begun to smell the money that can be had by selling eCigarettes. The problem is that the very vast majority of these resellers know less than nothing about eCigarettes and their only motivation is profit. Ask one of these people about the quality of the product they sell and their overwhelming response would be “I have no idea. Never smoked one. Don’t care either. If they sell I make money. End of story.” I’ve heard this statement over and over again here in Florida and in my home in New Hampshire.
Most of the retail outlets (non-specialty stores) that are selling eCigarettes are stocking the cheapest ones they can, at the highest markup, no matter how they are made or what they are made of. With the exception of the Blu Cigs deal with Walgreens and a couple of other retail chains, the brands carried at 7-11, Wal-Mart, and the gazillion gas stations and convenience stores in every town in America are selling and promoting garbage brands over better brands.
If you’ve never vaped an eCigarette and someone convinced you that they all tasted the same and your markup on them is 400%, what would you do?
I believe wholeheartedly in the Free Market, but even more than that I believe in an educated society. Here’s the message I would try to shout out to every potential eCig consumer:
“DON’T BUY ECIGS AT YOUR LOCAL CONVENIENCE STORE” (“Until you know what you are doing”)
Who’s KILLING a large segment of the potential “switchers”?
How many times have you heard or read about this scenario:
“Some smoker somewhere walks into a store to pick up a pack of smokes and is shocked that once again the price as gone up… and sitting right next to their brand of cigarette is an eCigarette that sells for less than half of the cigarette brand this customer walked in to buy… he or she makes an on-the-spot decision to buy the eCigarette (because maybe payday is a few days away, or cash flow is tight that day) and walks out of the store, gets in the car, rips the eCig out of the packaging, puts the eCig to their lips and tries to smoke it… and within 15 seconds rolls down the window of the car and tosses it, stops at the next store he or she passes and spends that $7 for a pack of smokes he wanted to buy in the first place. “
That is known as a “Delayed Customer” because it could take months or years before that smoker tries to quit or switch again. Chances are that person will outright quit instead of using an eCigarette.
That’s the biggest “local level” problem eCigarette companies face outside the ridiculous city ordinances being put into place in hundreds of town hungry to protect their citizens against a product they sense as being evil, but in reality is anything but.
China China China
I’m not going to get into how the entire globe has sold themselves down the river by sending virtually all manufacturing to China. I’m not even blaming them because labor is so cheap in China that we would be hard pressed to find an alternative way of manufacturing anything at less than 5 times the current cost. Do you want to pay $60 for a music CD? $8000 for laptop? $12,000 for a flat-screen HD TV? China makes it possible to sell products cheaply and for companies to be able to pay their executives more money than God would want to do the same job.
I blame both corporations and unions for this mess. And you and me as well because we let it happen. We were sold a pig with lipstick. But never mind that, this is about eCigarettes.
China and the eCigarette
The Chinese company that invented the eCigarette (Ruyan Group) deserves the tens of millions of dollars they make for the invention of the eCigarette. No doubt it was an inspiring idea, one that will save millions of lives over the years. The blames not there, with them, but rather with the business owners in China who has been taught by their government that “profit is everything”. These are the business owners that risk lives by cutting corners. They continue to cut corners more and more and more until something terrible happens. Then they do it again.
Bad products are not limited to China, not by a long shot. Some American companies are worse, much worse.
What ARE you inhaling??
Come on admit it. Most eCigarettes taste like crap. They taste like crap because they ARE crap. E-juice made from questionable ingredients, diluted by the most inexpensive ingredients to just “this side” of non-lethal, atomizers that don’t fire hot enough, or fire too hot, cartomizers that contain questionable material that soaks up the juice, and batteries that last for hours instead of months.
Solutions or Band Aids
As Spinfuel eCigs Magazine moves forward we will be widening our scope of eCig brands that we will review. When will began this venture we wanted to single out the GOOD eCigarettes and ignore the bad. “Spotlighting the good ones…” we thought, “…would allow the good brands to gain a foothold.” But that’s not true, not true at all.
These cheap, awful tasting eCigarettes are appearing in more and more shops and stores and are mudding up the waters. They are giving the potential customers an experience that drives them right back to tobacco, like a turtle that hears a loud noise, the customer’s head whips back into his shell, afraid to try it again for quite some time.
We are going to continue to write about the good brands out there, and we’re also going to have to write more about the crap stuff out there. Our Ratings System is going to change, we’re going to a max score of 5 and a low score of -5 … and our reviews will begin to list things like where the juice comes from, the construction of the components and most importantly, how “American Made” figures into the equation, from the liquid to the battery and everything in between.
Slap A Logo On It
Did you know that you can choose from a hundred different catalogs each and every component of the eCigarette, right down to the juices, and put together your own eCig brand for under $5000?
Did you know that there are many VC firms (Venture Capital) doing just that so that they can grab a slice of this lucrative business?
In future reviews we’re going to list the owner(s) of the company, whether it’s a VC owned or VC backed. In other words, the information you will be able to glean from our reviews in the coming weeks will be enough so that you will be able to toss aside a bunch of brands without wasting your money, and zoom in on the good brands.
Note* Not all VC companies are putting out crap product. We will not condemn a brand because a VC is funding it. But that information is important when group with all the other information you will get from our reviews.
Subjectivity of the Taste Equation
The only thing we cannot do is tell you if YOU are going to like the taste of the brands we review. That said, we will continue to gather the input of every Staffer here and tell you who liked it, and who didn’t. In time you may begin to trust the opinion of one or more of our staff because they like what you like, or dislike what you dislike. If you determine that the eCigarette with the taste YOU like is juiced with a Chinese made juice the onus will be on you to decide whether the risk is worth it. Spinfuel Staffers have made the decision that Chinese juice is NOT worth the risk, with few exceptions, such as DeKang, one of China’s most regulated companies. (Watch this YouTube video: http://youtu.be/pPN_Dwp-cx0 )
Lastly, if we grade a particular brand as a -5, or in easier to use language, CRAP, we might even create a banner Ad and display it on our site so you, and others can see it right away.
As we move toward the completion of our Apple and Android Apps, soon you will be able to do a quick search on Spinfuel to see if the brand you are contemplating purchasing at the gas station is rated, and what scored it achieved.
It would be so easy to close out this piece by reminding you that these are the Wild West Days for the eCig industry, and that there is a new sheriff in town… but we won’t do that. Hubris isn’t a pretty thing. So let me end this piece with the following:
“The eCigarette is a vital product, one that stands at the precipice of saving millions of lives. People have enjoyed smoking since the 1600’s, (but it goes back as far as 7000 years ago), so the act of smoking isn’t going away no matter how badly the Nanny State proponents want it to. A quality eCigarette, safely made and containing safe ingredients, constructed in a safe facility, can be the most important product of the 21st century. It is up to you and me to make sure that those who care more for profit than anything else is exposed for who they really are, and that those companies that take safety and quality serious are rewarded by our loyalty as consumers.”
John Manzione – Editor