Over the weekend, I was afforded an opportunity to attend the Electronic Cigarette Convention in Anaheim, CA with our sister company which specializes in electronic cigarette advertising and marketing, EcigMedia.
The ECC, organized (quite incredibly) by the West Coast Vapers club and sponsored by VapeRev, NJOY, NicQuid and Innokin aimed to be SoCal’s first “electronic cigarette expo”, exhibiting the strength of the rapidly growing West Coast Vaping scene as well as some of the best minds, organizations and businesses in this industry.
I wanted to attend the event with this premise in mind. The e-cigarette industry has grown up in nearly every regard (size, quality control, organization, diversity – you name it) and if an event could capture this, I thought, this had to be the one that would.
Arriving the night before the event began, the gathering seemed rather modest for the 77,000 square foot Anaheim convention center hosting the event. But by the first day, online registration figures of 4,000 attendees were soon eclipsed by estimates of 6,000+ on both days of the event. It was easily the biggest collection of vapers (and vapor) in one general area that I’ve seen. Scores of booths were setup with every type of product imaginable as either retailers, wholesalers or simply manufacturers. Others setup as vaping media outlets and community websites to promote their organization. One booth was simply a payment processor advertising itself to this industry.
On the second day, speakers took to a podium to discuss the most pressing issues to the electronic cigarette industry. First up was DC attorney Azim Chowdhury, an FDA regulatory compliance expert who wrote this great piece back in May of 2011 on the changing landscape of e-cigarette regulation and FDA. I’ve never seen someone more succinctly describe the complete mess that is FDAs relationship with e-cigarettes. Following Mr. Chowdhury was the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association presenting on their organization’s and members’ commitment to a responsible and sustainable standard for e-liquid manufacturing. Last was Fr. Jack Kearney, a very well-spoken and strong advocate for e-cigarettes, who unfortunately was unable to speak due to a fire alarm being raised for some unknown reason, that cancelled the presentation block midway through.
Much like VapeBash or the TMA meeting, the ECC left many of its attendees with an overwhelming feeling of change and growth in the e-cigarette world, especially those attendees with experience that reaches back to the good ol’ days of using tea bags to refill a cartridge. The size of the event combined with the number of attendees right off the street, gave me a sense that vaping is nearly unstoppable at this point, and is growing faster than anyone can really measure.
However, while the ECC seemed like a massive culmination of what this novel product has accomplished in a few short years, we’re still left with the reality of regulation and the utter ignorance of that reality by many vapers. This was highlighted during the presentations when the number of attendees listening were far outnumbered by a chanting crowd trying to catch free stuff that was being thrown at them by a vendor. In this way, ECC felt like a microcosm for what is happening with vaping everywhere- it’s simultaneously a group of people trying to change the world, and a big party that is showing no signs of slowing down.
Altogether, the ECC was incredible and the organizers deserve all the credit in the world for creating an event that both embraced the industry and worked to educate and organize individuals for the betterment of vaping. The future of vaping is still somewhat in question, but it’s certain that there will be a future- it’s just up to us to figure out exactly what that is.