In our last issue, we published ‘Trouble in Asia,’ an article bringing you up to speed on the implications of Taiwan’s pharmaceutical affairs law and the existential threat it poses to the domestic vape industry.
The only major body resisting this change is the Taiwan Vape Association (TVA), which has been vocally campaigning against it in the hope of reaching a compromise with the government and buying the domestic scene more time to prepare for future attacks.
Unwelcome change can often come incrementally, in so many stages few notice until it may be too late. Taiwan’s ruling creeps the country toward what could be a killing blow – a sabotage potent enough to end the business without explicitly describing this as its mission.
Danny Wang is the founder and current general secretary of the Taiwanese Vape Association. He doesn’t mince his words when describing the situation.
“In Taiwan, we are looking at a total ban on vaping,” he says.
Those still working to prevent this have one remaining lifeline: compiling and presenting evidence to the country’s lawmakers. According to Danny, nearly everything presented so far has been biased against vaping and provided almost exclusively by anti-vaping groups.
“We have to present the other side, ensure the lawmakers see the full range of studies and reports before making their final decision.”
The TVA have their work cut out for them, but the scope of this challenge hasn’t slowed them. Danny tells us that in addition to mobilising small and large business owners, the association has campaigned through giving talks, organising press conferences, handing out leaflets with the appropriate scientific literature and most importantly, translating the evidence into Mandarin.
Solidarity and support have become integral traits for those in the international vape trade, an entity often attacked from all sides by everything from inaccurate reporting to misguided regulation. The situation in Taiwan, like so many others, is a cautionary example attracting some worried glances from overseas. Breaking the language barrier goes a long way in helping.
“We trade and compile information with our allies, many of which are in countries facing a similar situation. These are organisations like the Hong Kong Vape Association. We also liaise with places like Malaysia and Shenzen.”
We asked Danny how other allies and business owners could best lend support, besides the obvious channels of donating to causes and signing petitions. He says, “The best way to help us is to improve your home vape scene to set a good example; an example we can provide as evidence that vaping works and is safe.”
But, providing and presenting evidence won’t be the end of the struggle. The most significant obstacle will be breaking through the mythology built around vaping once the debate begins.
Danny tells us that the gateway theory – the idea that e-cigarettes encourage combustible smoking – is very popular in Taiwan.
“Not even the government’s own research supports such a thing. We don’t see it in any other country either. It’s based on recycled rumours and badly researched news stories. Compromise is achievable. There’s a possibility we’ll end up like Japan – with a heavily restricted nicotine market. Ideally, we want to keep both nicotine and non-nicotine liquids; it’s more likely we’ll get to keep the latter. But the ‘anti’ crowd isn’t budging. They want a total ban. There’s also no chance for CBD or TNC-containing products here.”
Losing nicotine is very far from an ideal state for Taiwanese e-cigarettes, undercutting their primary purpose of smoking cessation. However, it would buy the trade more time and more wiggle-room to continue negotiating. A weakened vape trade is better than none and the fight is far from over.
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