In a classic example of trying to affect legislative outcomes through a combination of marketing and lobbying, Pillbox 38 recently donated some £30,000 to the UK Independence Party (UKIP). It did not take long for that donation to return some value by way of MEP Nigel Farage appearing in a video urging Parliament not to pass restrictive regulations on the products. Pillbox 38 is the company behind the Totally Wicked e-cigarette brand.
According to The Telegraph, UKIP accepted an additional donation of £11,000 from Totally Wicked founder Jason Cropper. There has been no direct link between the company and the video featuring Mr Farage, but it’s hard to believe that they are in no way connected. Especially given the fact that the devices Farage is shown using in the video are very similar to those sold by Totally Wicked.
Fighting the Regulatory Battle
The point of reporting the story is not to disparage Totally Wicked or Mr Farage. Indeed, dealing with government regulation is part of doing business in the UK and elsewhere. We expect companies in just about every sector to undertake lobbying efforts in an attempt to make sure any regulations are favourable to them. The e-cigarette industry is no different. What’s more, Totally Wicked is not the only company engaged in lobbying.
The fact remains that the e-cigarette industry now faces an uphill battle after the European Parliament voted to restrict nicotine levels in e-cigarette devices sold within their jurisdiction. They also left the door open to certain types of liquid cartridges and e-cigarette devices being banned if enough member nations decide to ban them individually. While the regulations are not as severe as they could have been, they are still severe enough to pose a real problem for the industry. If companies like Totally Wicked can get politicians on their side, they stand a much better chance of survival.
What’s at Stake
In order to get a real sense of what is at stake here, it should be noted that all of the currently approved methods of stopping smoking are related to nicotine replacement products manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Those products include nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, and prescription medications. If electronic cigarettes continue to grow at their current pace, the pharmaceutical companies behind these approved products will certainly take a financial hit.
Having said that, a little research into those lobbying against electronic cigarettes reveals a number of individuals and organisations with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Even pharmaceutical companies themselves have been involved in lobbying efforts. And don’t forget Big Tobacco who, until just recently, were not active participants in the e-cigarette industry. They were also part of the anti-e-cig lobbying effort.
It’s clear what’s at stake here: the future of a business sector that has grown from a small niche product to the most popular tobacco replacement in history. E-cigarettes are now worth billions of pounds annually thanks to millions of regular users on nearly every continent. E-cigarette companies and individual entrepreneurs are not going to just willingly sit by and see their empire threatened. They are going to fight back – even if it means having to pour money and effort into lobbying the politicians.
Protecting Your Small Business
As the owner of your own small business, is there anything to be learned here? Yes, there is. The lesson is to make every effort to protect your small business from your competitors or anyone else that might seek to do it damage. That damage may come by way of an individual attack on your business or one launched against the sector you are involved with. A business owner can never let his or her guard down if they hope to succeed for the long term.
VAPESTICK is a great example of an e-cigarette company that has not let its guard down despite ongoing regulatory turmoil and constant industry criticism. They are one of the founding members of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) and an active voice in setting industry standards designed to stifle much of the criticism the e-cigarette sector faces.
They understand that their business is more than just selling as many VAPESTICK kits as they can. It is about preserving the freedom to vape among those adult smokers who either cannot, or do not want, to quit smoking. They continue to fight to protect their industry through education, information, lobbying and developing high-quality products.
Small business owners everywhere can learn from companies like VAPESTICK and Totally Wicked. When company executives truly believe in the products or services they sell, it is clear by way of their actions. And sometimes it’s made even clearer by videos featuring prominent MEPs like Nigel Farage.