There hasn’t been major innovation in smoking cessation for a long time. What gave you the idea that hemp could be a possible solution?
I was a cigarette smoker for years. Cigarette addiction is one of the toughest habits to quit. They’re like a best friend that is with you through good times and bad, always there to make you feel better. With a desire to quit smoking as well as help others, I turned to vaping and founded a company to manufacture e-liquid for electronic cigarettes at the same time. Through years of research and experimentation I was able to create thousands of flavors and grow that company to one of the largest “juice” companies in America. Through this work, I was able to successfully transition to vaping and helped countless others to do so as well. What I later came to realize, however, was that beyond certain health implications of vaping itself, this “healthier alternative” was simply another method for delivering nicotine and actually increased the amount of nicotine I was consuming.
While I worked to build the e-liquid company, I also began a deep scientific study of the hemp plant and the various health and social benefits that can come from it. First as a flavoring and then as a health & wellness opportunity, the hemp plant and its various non-psychoactive cannabinoids opened my mind to a whole new way to help people quit smoking and improve their quality of life. The key was coming up with an alternative to cigarettes that replaced the actual “experience” of smoking and not just the nicotine addiction. I knew that many people could actually remove nicotine from their lives if they just had an alternative to the habit of smoking. The fact that hemp seemed to ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms was an added benefit. I eventually sold this company to a leading tobacco manufacturer with the intent to bring my years of hemp and flavoring research together to create an alternative to cigarettes that smokers would actually enjoy and benefit from - a pure hemp cigarette without any nicotine or tobacco. While I knew my conscience would not allow me to work with a traditional cigarette company for very long, I knew I needed to gain the knowledge of cigarette manufacturing in order to create a viable alternative to their product and that is just what I did.
Of course there was a lot of learning to do. There are many differences in user experiences based on genetics, strain, processing of seeds and stems, and general handling of the plant to end up with a base product that is truly a substitute for a tobacco cigarette and will create a satisfying user experience. I spent more than 3 years developing and then launching my hemp cigarette, Wild Hemp, which was the first hemp cigarette on the market. I knew I was onto something when I started getting feedback from real tobacco users passionately telling me that my hemp cigarettes were the first thing that ever truly replaced their tobacco cigarette habit and allowed them to reduce or quit tobacco.
While replacing the “habit” was a great first step I knew the next step in the evolution of the hemp cigarette was making it actually “taste” like a cigarette and this is how the idea for Taat was born. I decided to take my deep knowledge of hemp, of flavoring and of cigarette manufacturing and strike out on my own. It was time to change the world!
Tell us about the formulations of TAAT products and what makes them unique?
Years of experience. Years of experience formulating flavors for vaping. Years of experience processing and handling the hemp plant. Years of experience manufacturing hemp cigarettes. We have developed a proprietary 20 step process to bring our carefully selected and grown hemp to a point where it is ready for packaging. This process allows every Taat Beyond Tobacco™ Hemp Cigarette to taste and smoke as good as the last and ensure we have a product that can truly replace a traditional cigarette with a better-for-you alternative. It is this quality and consistency that makes Taat products unique.
This is my passion, I know that what I have created far-surpasses other hemp cigarettes on the market. That said, other hemp cigarettes have never been my target. The tobacco industry is my target. I envision Taat being in every gas station, smoke shop, liquor store, and convenience store domestically and internationally. It is important that people know this alternative exists and is available next to the dinosaurs on the shelves. Taat Beyond Tobacco™ Hemp Cigarettes are the future of cigarettes. A cigarette that actually provides a benefit to the individual and to society in general.
Why was it important to you guys on building TAAT to stay away from THC infused compounds or anything that would give consumers a “high”?
Two reasons. First is our stated desire to help people replace, reduce or quit smoking. That is our focus. A product that can truly replace cigarettes throughout the day cannot be something that impairs your ability to do all the things you need to do in your day. Whether it is work or play, our product should not get in the way. Second is the regulatory environment around THC. There are cascading levels of licensing, rules and enforcement actions at both the federal and state level and then again at the municipal level. You cannot ship across state lines or international borders. Major chains and mass market retailers will not touch THC or anything associated with it at this time. Having a THC connection would preclude us from being side by side with tobacco products and therefore make it difficult to accomplish our mission. The regulatory environment for hemp is much more relaxed and as the result of the 2018 United States Farm Bill, the sale and consumption of smokable hemp is legal in every state except Utah and in some cases can be exported internationally.
What can people expect from TAAT going forward?
Three pillars. Innovation, Distribution and Consistency. We are constantly working on new formulations, new flavoring and new ways to bring value to the brand and benefit to the consumer. Two examples are our new “Tropical” and “CBG Relief” flavors that will join our Original & Menthol. CBG especially has become a hot item lately for its reported health and wellness benefits that may even outpace CBD which is already in all of our other products. The second pillar is distribution. We want to have our Taat Beyond Tobacco™ Hemp Cigarette available anywhere you can buy traditional cigarettes as well as many places that no longer carry tobacco products. The third pillar is consistency. We take pride in our operation. It is not easy to replicate what we are doing. We take pride in confidently delivering the same product today you will experience one year from now. Hemp is not an easy plant to work with and consistency is key delivering on our promise.