Christian Berkey

Berkey

HARTLAND — Close to a million jobs could vanish and nearly 30,000 businesses could close because of federal regulations on vaping.

The federal Food and Drug Administration last month decided to implement rules that will put at risk vape shops, e-cigarette manufacturers, distributors and retailers in Wisconsin and across the United States.

You would think the FDA considers vaping products and e-cigarettes so harmful to the public, and so utterly devoid of beneficial attributes, that it must act swiftly to rid us of these dangerous products.

Actually, the FDA has no idea whether they’re dangerous. The FDA has admitted it does not have enough information to determine this. But that hasn’t stopped the agency from imposing some of the most onerous and expensive regulations in years.

In 2007, I founded Johnson Creek Vapor Co. in the basement of my home in Wisconsin. Johnson Creek was the first company in the country to create and sell e-liquid, the ingredients used in e-cigarettes and vaping products. We worked 18-hour days growing Johnson Creek from a small basement operation to a multimillion-dollar company we are intensely proud of. Almost a decade later, we have a 52,000-square-foot lab and facility and have employed over 100 dedicated employees.

Often I think of how many rent payments, mortgages, school clothes, student loan payments, braces and vet bills our company (and so many others in our industry) have made possible over the years. Our employees are talented, and we pay them well — including 75 percent of their medical, dental and vision insurance premiums, plus all the free lunches and sodas they can consume. We also give adult smokers their first truly viable alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

Despite all this, we will have to close down if FDA regulations move forward.

The FDA has blatantly ignored evidence that our products improve people’s lives. A recent report by the Royal College of Physicians found vaping is critical to reducing tobacco harm and is 95 percent safer than smoking.

The FDA disregarded thousands of wrenching and heartfelt commentaries by smokers whose lives and health have changed dramatically because they have actual hope of not dying a smoker. The FDA’s regulation threatens to take away consumer freedom and consumer choice to access products that are potentially safer than traditional cigarettes.

Since the vaping and e-cigarette revolution began a decade ago, 4.8 million people have died from smoking traditional cigarettes. In that same span of time, zero deaths have been attributed to vaping or e-smoking.

Thankfully, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is fighting on behalf of small businesses, consumers and the public’s health. On May 17, Johnson wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and asked him to explain why the FDA felt it necessary to overreach its authority and impose regulation that would cost vaping companies millions of dollars in pre-market application fees and thousands of hours processing these applications for a product they acknowledge may not be harmful.

Sen. Johnson is not a vaper, and he isn’t involved with any vaping or e-cigarette businesses. But he is a businessman, and he listened when I called. He listened when leaders of the Electronic Vaping Coalition of America, who are also residents of Wisconsin, contacted him. Sen. Johnson is involved because he wants to save jobs and lives — and he knows we deserve answers. So does everyone who has had a loved one suffer through a tobacco-related illness.

Call your members of Congress and tell them to join Sen. Johnson in his fight to preserve a growing industry that can help save lives.

Berkey is founder & CEO of Johnson Creek Enterprises, based in Hartland: www.jcvc.com.

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