Owners of more than 400 independent vaping businesses have signed a letter urging FedEx to reconsider its decision to prohibit shipping of vaping products. The signers include e-liquid manufacturers, vape product distributors, and vape shops of every size.
With a final Postal Service rule that will ban U.S. Mail delivery of vaping products due any day, many vape retailers—and their customers—face an uncertain future. Without at least one major nationwide shipper willing to deliver vaping products, many vapers will lose access to the products they need.
The letter to FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith was organized by Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association (AVA). As Conley and the small business owners explain, the FedEx decision to no longer deliver legal vaping products is a huge competitive advantage for tobacco companies that sell their vape devices primarily through convenience stores and gas stations.
The tobacco companies that sell vapes use the same proprietary channels they use to distribute cigarettes to retailers. But small vape shops depend on the Postal Service or common carriers like FedEx and UPS to get orders from distributors and manufacturers.
“FedEx is doing a great disservice to American small businesses and consumers,” Conley said in a press release. “They are playing right into the hands of Big Tobacco, which directly benefits from policies that make it more expensive for adult smokers to switch.”
Soon after Congress passed the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act last December—the law that directs the U.S. Postal Service to ban U.S. Mail delivery of vapes and forces online vaping sellers into PACT Act compliance—the major private delivery services (FedEx, UPS and DHL) also made the choice to stop shipping vaping products.
Although some private carriers have created partial solutions to the vape mail ban, they are mostly restricted to heavily populated areas, and are more expensive and slower than the Postal Service or the large common carriers like FedEx. There will soon be large swaths of the country with almost no access to vaping products.
“Without the option to order vaping products at wholesale or ship their products to consumers, vape stores have seen their shipping options skyrocket in cost or evaporate entirely,” says the AVA letter. “If consumers are not able to access or afford these reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes, they will be forced to turn back to combustible tobacco, which is far more dangerous and will have life-long consequences on their health.”
The business owners point out that marginalized communities like LGBTQ and black Americans will bear the brunt of restrictions on vape shipping. The FedEx policy will “result in more smoking, more disease, and more death” among these groups that already suffer disproportionately from smoking-related disease.
Rural vapers and smokers will also feel the effects of FedEx’s ban. Many western and midwestern states are sparsely populated, and unreachable through the new private delivery networks. Without reliable delivery options from a carrier with a broad footprint, vapers in rural and remote areas will have few choices. Many will simply shrug and go back to cigarettes.