The supply chain has been making headlines consistently since the beginning of the pandemic, but the vape industry has been hit – not by Covid-related disruptions – but by new legislation.
Vape businesses, whether they manufacture or sell nicotine, CBD, or even vaping equipment, have finally met the brick wall of the USPS vape mail ban that has been looming for months. While the industry has had several months to prepare for the upheaval, many businesses decided to wait until the actual publication of the ban to pivot to other delivery methods.
The reality is that currently the options for vape suppliers are not great and, without the USPS, there aren’t too many legal ways to move e-liquid or vape equipment around the country. That is because major shipping companies like FedEx and UPS have decided to go along with the USPS ban to avoid dealing with the potential headaches of rule enforcement.
The ban has its genesis in a piece of legislation, passed last December, which redefined the word “cigarette” under the PACT Act to include all “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” (ENDS). This significantly broader definition of ENDS can now apply to any device that can be used to vape – as well as the vapable substances themselves (and this is no longer limited to nicotine).
Understandably, the vaping industry was not amused:
Companies that rely on vape sales have had the better part of a year to find alternate solutions. But the reality is that smaller businesses may find it difficult to stay solvent without USPS shipping.
“Thanks to their intransigence, the language included in the omnibus is so sloppily drafted that it will also ban the USPS from shipping CBD liquids intended to be vaporized, as well as devices intended for use with THC or other non-nicotine substances,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said in a press release.
The ban was originally intended to go into effect in April, but the USPS decided that it needed more time to review the many public comments and “to ensure thorough and thoughtful consideration of the complex issues.”
This gave the vape industry some time to figure out a way forward, but even with six months of leeway, few clear answers have emerged.
Even shipping business-to-business (B2B) will be affected by the ban. While B2B shipping via the USPS is theoretically allowed, the process is designed to be prohibitively complicated (it was originally created to disrupt B2B shipping of cigarettes and has been applied wholesale to vape.
Even for businesses that want to use the USPS for B2B shipping, the backlog for approval is significant, and the USPS is making no promises as to how quickly it will move through applications.
So what about private delivery companies? This seems to be the only grain of hope for the vape industry. So far, a partnership between a private group buying company and a national residential shipping carrier (X Delivery) has been building a vaping product delivery network that will serve residential customers in some (mostly urban) areas.
With the vape mail ban finally here, the real testing of companies like X Delivery is about to take place, but for the foreseeable future that still leaves large swathes of the country with no possibility of vape delivery.