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FDA Vaping Regulations: Product Sampling

Ah product sampling. Remember the days when vape companies could go out to adult events to hand out free product to the smokers lining the streets? Or how about the promotion of vape product giveaways across social media channels? Or how about even just letting a potential new customer try out a flavor to find the right fit? Or how about being that potential new customer who is skeptical of vape flavors and thinks satisfaction can only be achieved if it tastes just like a cigarette, only to end up asking, “Why did I ever like the taste of a cigarette?” Well, those days will now be faded memories with the FDA’s restrictions on product sampling.

No More Sampling Vape Products

If only every industry was like the automobile industry, at least in the sense that you can “try before you buy”. Who knows how many countless consumer dollars have gone to waste from buying products that just weren’t…great. And when it comes to vaping, people are skeptical. There is always skepticism when it comes to the new and unknown. This is what made sampling vapor products great, both for the consumer and the vape company. Prior to FDA regulations, sampling was one of the best marketing practices for vape companies, as they could give consumers a hands-on demonstration of how vaping works and help them find a device, flavor and nicotine strength that worked the best for them; thus, the consumers had the benefit of trying different products and flavors so they could make an informed decision when making the commitment to give vaping a try.

Now that the FDA has taken authority over the vaping industry, product sampling has been thrown out the window. But still, there are some uncertainties as to what the FDA defines as “product sampling”. This is why we received a few questions about product sampling during our DeMISTified Webinar Series. Below you will find these questions with answers from the experts – or from the best research we could do on this gray area of FDA regulations.

What is the FDA ruling on sampling in store with or without nicotine?

There is no real distinction between sampling between nicotine-containing products versus nicotine-free products. Although nicotine-free products do not contain nicotine (hence the term “nicotine-free”), they are still subject to the rules in carrying a warning that states, “This product is made from tobacco.

The FDA’s clarification on this is: If the intention of nicotine-free products is to be used with a tobacco product (mods, e-cigs, vape pens, etc.), then free product and/or sampling is strictly prohibited, regardless of whether or not the product in question contains nicotine.

“Free samples are banned as of the 8th, just take it away, free samples are banned.” – Cynthia Cabrera

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Click to tweet: “Free samples are banned as of the 8th, just take it away, free samples are banned.” @cyncab http://bit.ly/FDARegs #FDADeeming #ECigs

Do customer loyalty programs count as offering "free" product?

This is another gray area when it comes to the FDA’s regulations. The rules specifically state that both product sampling and free product are prohibited; however, retailers can offer “product sampling” as long as they charge a fee. The FDA did not share specifics or a dollar amount with this fee, so we suggest you consult with your lawyer before moving forward with any form of product sampling.

As for loyalty programs, as long as no free product or sampling is involved, then retailers should be able to continue with loyalty programs. For example, White Cloud’s Rewards Program allows customers to earn reward points based on purchases and other interactions. Customers may redeem their points for discounts towards future purchases and not for entirely free product.

What is the minimum amount that a vendor can charge for samples?

“There’s no one solution or answer to how you should handle charging people for samples.” – Cynthia Cabrera

The FDA did not give a minimum amount for manufacturers and retailers to charge for samples. We recommend you consult an attorney for further direction.

We can speculate, along with the experts, that if manufacturers and retailers choose to charge $1.00 for the product, this may spark red flags for the FDA.

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Click to tweet: “There’s no one solution or answer to how you should handle the charging people for samples.” @cyncab http://bit.ly/FDARegs#FDADeeming

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