China vs USA – The Battle for Vaping

Could China be ready to outsmart America once again?

When it comes to politics, there is none more interesting at the minute than America vs China. Donald Trump seems hell bent on getting one over on the eastern super power and China just seem to have a knack of outsmarting them at every turn. You could liken it to a real life episode of Tom and Jerry or Roadrunner for how silly things get these days. Given that some of the tactics from America is to ban Tik Tok which is Chinese based unless America can have a controlling stake on their borders (sound familiar?) it doesn’t quite have the cold war super weapon threats that generations before had to live through. However that is where we are in the world today, battles over insignificant things to show whose tail feathers are larger. However could China be ready to finally take a massive step in removing the one thing from America that it has fought for 10 years to have, could we see China infiltrate from the inside on one of the most unusual places of all, vaping?

We have explored the history of vaping in America before today and as you know it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows by any stretch. In face since the first products arrived in America, the FDA has been fighting to gain control over the industry. The problem they always had was that it didn’t technically fall into any of their thorough regulations in place. They tried for years to regulate it as a tobacco product and it took influence (or perhaps conveniently placed) from Anti vaping groups for them to finally control the industry. This year has marked the start of the flavour ban in America which is, state by state voting on whether to implement one as an opposition to the vaping company JUUL. They also implemented a pull back of the deadline for submitting products for sale from 3 years to 10 months as per a small court in one state. This has potentially put a lot of America businesses on the ropes as they cannot afford the huge prices to test their products ahead of sale.

So where does China come into this you may be asking? Good question, remember how when I started this article I likened the two countries to Roadrunner? Imagine Wil-E Coyote as America in this scenario and China as the Road Runner. Always one step ahead, always outsmarting its counterpart, well China could be about to do such that. How? Join us at Drip Hacks and we will explain how China is ready to infiltrate and take over right in front of American noses.

The PMTA – Losing control of a controlled situation

Ahh the PMTA, the epitome of American greed and the cumulative result from 10 years of the war on vaping. What has been designed as something to make Americans safer and to curb the epidemic of vaping in teen culture may have opened the door to losing control completely. To explain, we have to go way back to the start.

The story really begins back in 2016 when the FDA finally wriggled some control over the perceived tobacco issue within America. From 2009 until then, vaping was untouchable by them, as long as they didn’t put a foot wrong. The original rights were only granted to the FDA from the government for tobacco products and tobacco products E-cigarettes weren’t. So in 2016 they finally passed the deeming rule, which meant they could deem any tobacco product under its control and therefore their regulation, which to this day includes vaping. So from this moment the FDA could start putting pressure on the vaping industry to seize control all in the name of money but they hadn’t accounted for one thing, JUUL. The impact JUUL had in America from 2016 cannot be understated. They became a giant of a company, by 2019 owning 72% of the market share and unfortunately being the poster boy for the Teen rise in vaping from many oppositions groups. The term JUUL as a result as eclipsed the term vaping state side to become its own thing, with plenty of negative connotations lingering to this day.

So fast forward to 2019 and what happened was what created a ripple effect in the industry there, which started from an unlikely source. Newly appointed commissioner of the FDA, seen by many vaper as the enemy in the war on vaping, surprised everyone by pushing the original deadline from 2018 to 2022, giving vaping companies 4 more years to not only do business but get their products ready for a PMTA evaluation before sales were approved. Tobacco based organisations led by the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) decided to sue the FDA for changing the deadline without going through appropriate channels. Then in 2019, a federal judge agreed to this and then brought the deadline forward from 2022, to 2020, may to be exact. The deadline was extended to September 2020 which is where we are now.

So what significance does moving the deadline forward have? Well in as many words, money. The issue many vaping companies have is that 10 months is nowhere near enough time to ready hundreds of thousands of dollars at the minimum to pass all of their products for sale. So without approval they are not allowed to sell it, which following on from that, nowhere to go. So what Americans will see over the coming months from now is many of their home grown companies simply ceasing to exist, unable to afford to approve their products. Now Short fills may be exempt from the rulings as they do not contain nicotine, however the PMTA does extend to hardware so if any American company wanted to manufacture then it would be very costly to do so. So you can understand why American vapers are so angry about the deadline change, thousands of livelihoods could be affected by such a ruling with the reason being money but disguised as public health. It certainly does not follow any real scientific research done over the past several years that is for sure. However this window may have been presented to someone who America had not even thought of…. China.

See the PMTA regulations established cost and the what and why but there is one thing that the FDA didn’t think of including, the Who. No, not the band before you think that, the who relative to who could submit a PMTA application. What we have seen happen in recent weeks is that companies have been applying and passing rounds of PMTA but instead of home grown talent, it is Chinese based manufacturers. Companies such as Voopoo, Vaporesso, Smok to name a few have submitted and passed the initial stages of their application meaning they are close to being approved to sell within the country. Given that the parent company of Vaporesso is now worth 27 billion dollars, these aren’t small fry to be approved.

So consider this, despite the plan to make America the dominant power in the relationship between the two countries, have they opened the door to a Chinese takeover? When you think about a vaping manufacturer then chances are they are Chinese owned. As most of them are global distributors, they have the money and the brand recognition. So essentially America could see their vaping market dominated by Chinese brands whilst out pricing their own companies from even competing. There is an irony there I must admit. China could take over vaping hardware market in America whilst even JUUL is reeling from recent events against them in the country. There is more however that could really have a bigger impact than this, as the saying goes, the devil is in the detail…….

Circumnavigating the Small Print

Ok so we have looked at how China may take over the hardware market in America but could they be developing something that could change the entire landscape of vaping there? Its existence began last year with companies starting to use it but could the existence of Synthetic Nicotine be the card that brings the whole house of cards down? What is synthetic Nicotine however and more importantly how can it replace the real thing?

Synthetic Nicotine is a man made substance that essentially provides a loophole for every single company being affected by the PMTA (or TPD) simply as it does not adhere to current regulations. It is made in the lab by scientists that can produce the nicotine molecule without the need for tobacco plants, the main source usually of nicotine. Synthetic nicotine is cleaner and purer than regular stuff with no odour and is tasteless as well. For all intents and purposes, it is identical to tobacco based nicotine but without the source material as it were. To make synthetic nicotine, chemicals such as ethanol, niacin and sulphuric acid are used, however the end result as mentioned is identical. The one big difference between the two however is that synthetic nicotine is 100% pure compared to the tobacco based version which carries some impurities from its source. The ingredients to make synthetic nicotine can be easily sourced from FDA approved sources and the substance has been awaiting approval from the FDA since last year although I cannot find a source on its approval.

So lets look at this in a bigger picture perspective when looking at the FDA in America. Their regulations relate to tobacco based products and therefore any nicotine currently falls into their category due to the fact it is tobacco sourced nicotine used. So there is no way around that, however if the tobacco is synthetic, that isn’t tobacco sourced. So immediately you would circumnavigate the FDA initial ruling that regulates tobacco based products because, in reality it isn’t a tobacco product. So if companies immediately switched to this method of nicotine delivery, it could create a firestorm within the country as the FDA would then have to go on the defensive and try to include it based on any product as opposed to simply Tobacco based ones. From there you can argue in court that other products, such as vegetables would also have to be regulated in such a way, given it covers everything and the house of cards comes falling down. I am talking entirely hypothetical here without passing my bar exam but you can see the thought process here. This could be the shot into the industry that America needs to fight back and do it by the books. Even if the FDA get their own way, they would have to rewrite the rules on what a tobacco product is to tackle it, which isn’t an easy task. Alternatively they could class it as a drug and regulate it in a more costly way as that, which would then allow for counter argument against tobacco then having to fall into the same category, thus meaning you can put the FDA in a no win situation.

So like I said earlier, the devil is in the detail here. The fact that China is the country that is currently developing synthetic nicotine, they could provide a catalyst that finally allows vaping to push beyond its tobacco based image that politicians want to attribute to it. China could well instigate a domino effect if the vaping industry were to fight back finally and we could then see synthetic nicotine becoming more widespread within the industry itself. By simply redefining the reality of vaping in such a way, could China be allowing vaping in America to start a revolution? Only time will tell.


It is crazy to think that despite the political goings on, vaping can play a minor but important part in changing the lives of thousands of vapers with the thanks coming from enemy number 1 in their country’s eyes. It is fair to say that vaping have a small opportunity, a loophole as it were to take advantage and seize control back from the FDA after 10 hard fought years. Whatever happens in the future, we can only hope that the American vaping industry dare to take on their FDA because the losers may be forgotten but the winners here are potentially millions of lives saved. Could China be about to outsmart America and take over their vaping industry after they finally win control of it? Fingers crossed.

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