This is the story of an enterprising and ambitious female entrepreneur facing the challenges of small vape companies across America.
Nicotine-free vaping products exist. They are a niche product for vapers and former smokers who wish to follow the harm reduction recovery spectrum away from the addictive nature of nicotine. While there is ample evidence furnished by bodies like Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians also in the United Kingdom to speak to the harm reduction characteristics of electronic cigarettes, they still contain nicotine.
The Royal Society for Public Health also maintains that nicotine addiction and caffeine addiction aren’t dissimilar. It is true that both nicotine and caffeine react differently and are chemically varied, but, the case behind this column suggests that the ideal goal in the practice of tobacco harm reduction is to eventually reduce the harm of the addition.
Wholesaler VaporTech USA distributes and sells a line of disposable nicotine-free vape products called Cube ZERO. According to the company, this disposable device is sold with up to 3000 puffs of flavored liquid that is entirely nicotine free. Due to the current state of federal law in the United States, VaporTech still has to sell the device in line with Food and Drug Administration guidelines for marketing legally accepted e-cigarettes.
“I use plant-based products because I grew up with them and understand what they can do for our bodies”
This means that the one-use disposable delivery system that is Cube ZERO has to bear the notorious FDA and Surgeon General warnings that the product contains nicotine.
A line on the product page for Cube ZERO even points out the following: “Per [the] FDA regulations we have to put the Nicotine Warning on all Vape Products even when they do not contain nicotine.” So, the question that remains is what can this niche segment do to evolve and provide competitive means for those users who want to quit nicotine.
This is where innovation and necessity meet. A common proverb that is shared says that “necessity is the mother of invention” and by extension “necessity is the mother of innovation. In most contexts, this applies to the proliferation of technology. But, I find this applicable to the story you are about to read. It’s a story of necessity that turned into something built from determination to improve one’s own life and health. But, as is the case for companies that simply sell nicotine-free alternatives, there is a consistent cartelization and monopolization through the dark dynamism of regulators and CEOs.
A smoking botanical enthusiast turned inventor
Judy Henry, an entrepreneur from the US state of Idaho, grew up in a home where she was consistently exposed to botanicals and herbs. She spent years of her life studying the health benefits of botanicals and eventually developed a business around her love.
“I use plant-based products because I grew up with them and understand what they can do for our bodies,” Henry said in an exclusive interview with this Vaping Post contributor.
“I truly believe that God put everything we need on this earth to be well,” she continued. “They are a culmination of the knowledge of many generations of the people that came before us and embraced botanicals for their powerful effects on our overall well-being.”
This belief guides Judy Henry in life. And, that belief has flourished into something that is unique and special to her. Sacred Body Botanicals is the result of her dedication. What she accomplished was building a small natural health and wellness brand that eventually evolved into a laboratory for innovative products developed over the years
“Our ideal customers would include current nicotine users looking for something new”
A former smoker, Judy Henry refers to herself as a “lifelong nicotine user” who saw the chance to improve her health. Leveraging her experience with botanicals, she took up the challenge to develop a range of all-natural formulations that attempt to emulate the pleasure of addictive nicotine. She patented several formulations that she says appeal to a wide range of customers who also benefited from the compounds in a short period.
One of these products is a nicotine-free e-liquid that Henry claims is a virtual nicotine detox to help people quit smoking cigarettes, the most harmful delivery system of how nicotine is consumed into the body, and the harm-reduced format of vaping nicotine.
“This botanically derived formulation mimics the nicotine experience in a non-addictive way by use of carefully researched and selected nervines”
Henry created NoNic, a patented liquid compound of plant-based botanicals, to provide a nicotine replacement for smokers looking for non-addictive cessation methods.
“Our ideal customers would include current nicotine users looking for something new, those looking to reduce or eliminate nicotine usage but are fearful of the withdrawal symptoms associated with dopamine & noradrenaline brain changes accompanying nicotine use, and non-nicotine users looking for something relaxing and pleasurable, natural, and yet non-habit forming,” Henry explained while explaining the science behind her products. “This botanically derived formulation mimics the nicotine experience in a non-addictive way by use of carefully researched and selected nervines. These tonics soothe the adrenal glands and assist in combating the nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms while easing associated symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.”
She designed the NoNic formula, with a lung health-focused formula and an immune system-boosting formula, to work well in both open-system vaporizers and nebulizers.
Viability with stark limitations
The initial results of the NoNic product were quite successful, Henry said in an initial phone call before our official interview. Judy Henry initiated a pilot program in her local community by providing customers with seminars that introduced her NoNic product.
Though I am paraphrasing that conversation, she said that over a few short sessions of introducing her NoNic formulation to customers struggling with nicotine use addiction, there were results. Henry notes that she can’t claim medically-reviewed health benefits for a product that is essentially a wellness aid due to FDA regulations. But, she said that a few customers of hers visited her weeks after her product introductions and hugged her. One story she shared with me stuck out. It was a gentleman who started vaping the NoNic formulation and claims that he was instantly hooked and never again went back to smoking. Not peer-reviewed evidence, yes, but she sees real-life success with NoNic.
But, the stark reality of the situation is that even a botanical-based formula isn’t legal to sell in the United States without the invasive and costly FDA inspection and approval or some other prohibition on products that don’t have the approval of federal regulators.
Large players in the independent vaping industry and multinational tobacco companies are the only folks who can enter the market.
Despite developing a product that is virtually different from others, Judy Henry is legally prohibited from selling NoNic through her company, Sacred Body Botanicals. In 2020, the United States Congress passed the extremely controversial Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act which amended the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act of 2009. The PACT Act enables the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to aggressively enforce rules governing non-compliant interstate sales of tobacco products. The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act added a broad definition to the existing PACT Act that includes vaping devices and codified the ban on vaping mail that is to be enforced by the federal United States Postal Service.
Very hard truths
The act is so invasive that it essentially defined an electronic nicotine delivery system, or ENDS, as all vaping products and adjacent products. This includes components, accessories, and liquids — regardless of whether the liquid contains nicotine or not.
The National Law Review republished a blog post by attorneys working for regulatory law firm Keller & Heckman LLP noting that the broad nature of the bill includes nicotine-free.
This isn’t new information.
But, it speaks to the challenges that Judy Henry and others like her are having to face. Regulations are so tight in the United States that the barriers to market entry are nearly impossible to overcome without the budget and a strong legal team.
This is a symptom of a broken regulatory regime.
This means what most of you already know: large players in the independent vaping industry and multinational tobacco companies are the only folks who can enter the market. In addition to navigating the PACT Act, the ATF, and the US Postal Service, companies also need to pass muster with the FDA Center for Tobacco Products.
The reality is what it is and the vaping industry independent of big tobacco continues to rely on disproportionate regulation and the clearly unethical control of the vaping space.
That’s enough of the soapbox, though. Judy Henry presses on and continues to find the success that she can when it’s found. Meet the entrepreneur who made and patented a product that could be considered an innovation in how one would approach the niche of nicotine-free products. However, her own formula made of nothing even related to the tobacco plant or the psychoactive substance of nicotine is considered as such by the government of the United States. This is a symptom of a broken regulatory regime.