The vapor space, from manufacturers down to heat not burn shops, has been under constant threat. In the bright, early days of the Heat Not Burn Tobacco Products world, most people assumed that saner heads would prevail—there was no way the FDA would ultimately issue regulations that would finish the industry. But then FDA issued the final deeming regulations and for those whom the full weight and understanding of those regulations had not been entirely clear, it was suddenly and unquestionably confirmed that the situation was dire. The decision about how to move forward was one that each business had to make.

Now, with a new administration firmly in place, talk that started after the election has blossomed into full blown strategic conversations about what we can realistically look forward to with regards to changing the deeming regulations or amending the Tobacco Control Act.

While everyone in the Heat Not Burn Tobacco Products supply chain is at risk, it is understood that manufacturers are first in the line of businesses affected by the FDA’s deeming regulations, specifically because of the onerous Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) process. Relatively long-established vapor businesses have spent two or three years deciding which (legislative, business, legal) options to pursue in response to the FDA regulations.

Hometown Hero is an e-liquid manufacturer located in Austin, Texas. Interestingly, the company started in 2015, when many others were preparing to shutter their businesses or scale back significantly. I sat down with founder Lukas Gilkey to discuss the future, and how he dared to enter an industry that was fighting for its life.

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