I am writing today in response to the press release issued by Senator Sherrod Brown’s office regarding the FDA deeming regulations.


I am absolutely HORRIFIED that the FDA has made decisions to classify electronic cigarette and vaping products the same as tobacco, without completely understanding how this affects our economy of small business.  Please indulge me to provide some REAL FACTS regarding the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices from a person who has not only successfully QUIT smoking cigarettes now for over 5 years, but has invested my entire life savings and put my family’s financial comfort at risk to own and operate two retail stores in Northern Virginia.


I understand the Senator is very busy and has many, many items that cross his desk, but this particular issue is not only personal to me, but I feel, as it is written, is set out to destroy small business across the nation.  While I fully encourage much more long-term studies and research, proper warning labels, approved ingredients, safe and clean manufacturing environments as well as strict under-age prevention, lumping these devices into the same category as the cancer-causing products we are trying to avoid, is NOT the way to do it.


I know it is hard for a non-vaper to understand this at first, but electronic cigarettes has been the ONLY successful way I quit smoking, and I can tell you from the thousands of people I serve in my businesses each year, this has been the best way for them to successfully quit as well.  And some no longer use electronic cigarettes either.


The people I am talking about are the high-risk smokers.  The people who switch from smoking 3 packs of traditional tobacco cigarettes a day for decades, to electronic cigarettes with a similar nicotine delivery amount.  It doesn’t matter if they are a dual user for the initial part of their personal journey, but they eventually move entirely to vaping (electronic cigarette style devices).  With electronic cigarettes, they are inhaling a maximum of 4 ingredients found in everyday products, as opposed to the thousands of known-harmful and carcinogenic ingredients in combusted traditional tobacco.


Yes, but nicotine is bad for you and it’s highly addictive.  I also respectfully disagree with that statement.  Is it addictive, yes.  It is VERY addictive when combined with the thousands of chemicals in traditional tobacco cigarettes as I mentioned before, however there are now studies, particularly in the UK (as well as my own personal anecdotal evidence from living it, and working in this industry for the last 2 years), that suggest nicotine by itself is no more addictive than caffeine and when removed from all of the other chemicals of cigarettes, previous smokers are able to step down to lower nicotine percentages, and eventually off nicotine completely.  I sincerely encourage the FDA to do just a little more research before broad stroking this topic.  I personally no longer require e-liquid with nicotine, even though when I first started I used 24mg.  And this is true for almost everyone who steps foot in my shop.  Not to mention if someone wants to use an electronic cigarette recreationally, they don’t need to be introduced to nicotine at all.


I’d also like to address the argument of formaldehyde found in electronic cigarettes. It is my understanding that if we dig a little deeper into the actual research, that it was based on a study FUNDED BY BIG TOBACCO.  They pushed that particular device to such unrealistic levels, no electronic cigarette user would be capable of inhaling it.  It actually caused the wicking material to combust and this isn’t an enjoyable experience.  We actually try to avoid those scenarios with vaping.  And even at that ridiculously high voltage, formaldehyde was found in hugely LOWER quantities than in a traditional tobacco cigarette.


In the Senator’s statement, he wants to “protect public health and children” and “ensure that e-cigarettes aren’t a gateway to traditional tobacco products”.  He also states that Big Tobacco has “turned to e-cigarettes to drum up business and hook a new generation on their products”.  With all due respect, it is my opinion that these statements may be the most narrow-minded view of the rules I have seen throughout this entire time I have been following these regulations and researching the topics.


Big Tobacco WANTS the FDA to regulate.  That’s the thing.  They ARE losing customers every day to DEATH and DISEASE, but also to electronic cigarettes.  Sure they own e-cigarette companies, but it’s because they need to diversify their business to continue making a profit and they know that people are opting to quit the stinky, cancer-sticks that they’ve been selling people for decades.  The states also want their money from tobacco tax, and if traditional cigarettes are on the decline, this is the most obvious way for them to continue earning that revenue.  In addition, it’s Big Tobacco that wants the predicate date to stay at Feb 2007 because they know THEY were the only e-cigarette products on the market at that time.  A lot has changed in 10 years.  Think of where technology was back then compared to now.  Electronic cigarettes are nothing like they were when they first started.  I know because I owned one.  Now they are effective.  They are fine-tuned and the industry continues to grow at a rapid pace.


Big Tobacco no longer controls all electronic cigarettes like the statement suggests.  It’s now the Mom & Pop shops like me that are growing the industry.  We are entrepreneurs and advocates.  The products we offer are vast and we focus our attention to the people who want to quit smoking traditional tobacco.  They come to us for an alternative to smoking and they want to experience the benefits electronic cigarettes can provide versus traditional tobacco.


And let the record show that our customers are adults; we don’t sell to children.  There are signs prominently displayed on our door and in the shops and we ID anyone that looks underage.  We also don’t market to children with fruity flavors or colorful labels.  I enjoy a cotton candy vape, or a cereal flavor.  It’s nostalgic for me, but I also believe in making sure that they are used responsibly; correctly; safely.  As an adult, I want the freedom to choose an electronic cigarette and a flavor that will allow me to stay off cigarettes. Unfortunately with the continued misinformation and lack of actual research, that freedom is being taken away by people who haven’t put in the time to educate themselves on all aspects, or don’t understand how hard it is to quit smoking.


Any other product that offered people an alternative, would be praised.  We aren’t looking at the bigger picture here.  This isn’t about being 100% safe.  It’s about tobacco harm reduction.  It’s about giving people an option to lower their health risks.  It’s about growing small business that is the cornerstone of our economy.


Every day the FDA approves a new pharmaceutical product where the side effects are almost worse that the issue it’s meant to treat.  Supplement companies are able to put a small disclaimer across the bottom but how many of those products actually contain what they say they contain?


Electronic cigarettes could potentially save lives, yet we’re worried about it being used to START people on smoking traditional cigarettes?  That’s preposterous.  Cigarettes taste horrible!  None of us ever started smoking because it tasted good.  We did it to fit in, be cool, or imitate someone we knew.  And THAT’S how we got hooked.  It’s not the other way around.  Why in the world would someone go from enjoying a delicious strawberry dessert flavor, to the taste of burnt paper and filthy tobacco?  On one hand, you have something that smells nice, and on the other you have something that stinks up my clothes, my breath, my hair and my car.  That’s gross.


In closing, I encourage Senator Brown to cosponsor and support HR 2058.  This will in the very least allow us to keep 99% of the existing products on the market.  I would also like to personally invite the Senator next time he is in the DC area, to come visit my shops, so we could continue the conversation regarding the true impact these deeming regulations have on the well-being of this country.  We have a fantastic pinball arcade room at our Leesburg location that would make for a great backdrop for future discussions.


Thank you for your time and for forwarding this message to Mr Brown himself.




Eric “Zootie” Sutton

Zootie’s Vapors – Paeonian Springs
40602 Charles Town Pike
Paeonian Springs VA 20129


Zootie’s Vapors & Pinball Arcade – Historic Downtown Leesburg
19-C Wirt St SW
Leesburg, VA 20175

(571) 293-8277