For our latest expert Q&A, we caught up with Christos to chat about Philter Labs, the company’s vision of reducing the harms and stigma of secondhand smoke, the design and unique products, and more. You can check out Philter’s brand mission below and scroll further down to read the full interview!
Ganjapreneur: Could you please briefly explain Philter Labs’ unique product offerings, and explain where/how the idea behind these products was born?
Christos Nicolaidis: We launched PHILTER to develop and bring an entirely new solution to market that addresses the most prolific, longest-standing issue when it comes to vaping and smoking; reducing the harmful effects and negative stigma of secondhand smoke. Philter Labs is pioneering a new category of micro-sized personal air filters that enables adults who choose to smoke or vape to do so “cloudlessly”, by easily and efficiently filtering their secondhand vapor or smoke. Our patented technology destroys 95% of smoke and vape emissions. About 5 years ago I was chatting with renowned product developers and friends Yuval Shenkel and John Grimm. As we discussed the fast-growing vaporizer space we realized that nobody had yet addressed one of the biggest drawbacks of vaping and smoking, the uncontrolled and harmful cloud of secondhand smoke that plagued users and everyone in their general vicinity. So, we formed a company and began to focus on a goal of creating a small, sophisticated yet highly effective line of products that could easily be integrated for use with both cannabis and nicotine. The result is the development of new and well protected IP that backs our robust pipeline of products that are primarily based on our patented Zero-5™ Technology. This five-step filtration process manipulates vapor and smoke at the molecular level to dissipate and reduce emissions while simultaneously dissolving or trapping particulates and pollutants. Our technology goes far beyond the old toilet paper roll stuffed with paper towel filter. There is an incredible amount of complex processing involved to achieve such a high level of filtration. This had led to outreach from large vape brands and the foremost leading tobacco companies who understand how a technology like ours could be a true game changer by bringing the days of uncontrollable and harmful smoke clouds to an end. This is a clear indication that we are on the right track and our hard work over the past 5 years has the potential to lead to some very valuable partnerships.
What’s the most important thing for consumers to know about Philter Labs?
Our mission is to empower responsible adults with the choice to keep the air clean for those around them by filtering their emissions and yet still allowing them to enjoy their chosen lifestyle. PHILTER benefits from several cultural trends and beliefs that are deeply embedded into the lifestyle of our target consumer demographic. First, any responsible adult who smokes or vapes today is hyper aware of the damaging health effects of secondhand smoke and has likely been on the receiving end of the negative stigma associated with it. At the same time, these are people who desire to live a clean, healthy, and environmentally sensitive lifestyle, and often use products that signal to others their commitment to these virtues. PHILTER products represent a new paradigm for people who vape and smoke. No longer do they have to isolate themselves for fear their uncontrollable cloud of potential dangerous secondhand smoke will indiscriminately intrude upon everyone around them. Vapers and non-vapers can now socially co-exist with our exciting new technology, all while eliminating secondhand smoke and still protecting their personal right to vape or smoke. We truly believe that’s something to celebrate!
What has the response been so far to the Philter products, and which is your most popular offering?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. 1 in 20 US adults identify as vape users, and while the latest issues related to illicit vaping practices have been front-page news, the number of adults who vape doesn’t seem to be dipping. This is due in large part to better education and the latest findings by the CDC that harmful additives in vape cartridges are the cause. Still, if you think about it, 1 in 20 adults vaping is a LOT of secondhand vapor! Everyone sees the value in solving the major public issue of exposure to secondhand vape and smoke, but until now, there has not been a small, affordable, and highly effective solution that vapers could feel comfortable using without drawing even more attention to themselves. PHILTER is sleek and it works. Our POCKET, a unique and simple-to-use accessory that makes filtering vape and smoke convenient, is our best-selling product to date. Upon our customers request, we recently launched a 3-pack of reasonably priced replacement filters in nine exciting new colors. These refill packs allow customers to continue using their POCKET or PHLIP sleeve and simply just replace their filter resulting in less waste and less cost.
What is your proudest achievement with Philter Labs, so far?
It is exciting to create a product that immediately earns traction in the marketplace. The company has had many achievements during its journey from idea/concept to a viable solution, to store shelf. But was is most rewarding it to hear the feedback from customers who tell us they can’t imagine how they lived before discovering our product. Especially the people who might be skeptical at first, but later say that they have found an immense amount of relief because they no longer have to worry about offending others or standing outside in a cold dirty alleyway to partake. Another big achievement is when our CMO, Amanda Byrd, came up with the name “PHILTER”, which from a branding standpoint, is brilliant. The PHILTER brand is steadfast becoming a trusted brand that truly solves a problem that has plagued millions of people around the world.
Have you had to face any misconceptions as a cannabis-adjacent company?
Because of the functionality of our products, there has been a misconception that we are solely trying to help people hide their cannabis consumption, but the reality is that we are trying to normalize open consumption by providing a way for people to balance the social scales by making outward legal cannabis consumption acceptable. In our opinion, a person should be able to unwind and relax with a cannabis vape pen the same way they do with a glass of wine.
Are there new products in the works, or are there other ways you plan to implement your filtration technology?
We have a very robust product pipeline that allows us to fully leverage our unique filtration techniques. What is so exciting about the capacity of our patented technology is that it has the ability to be integrated into virtually any type of electronic or combustible delivery systems for nicotine and cannabis which gives us a wide variety of opportunities to meet the needs of our customers. As impressive as our first products have performed, we are actually far more excited about a game changing new line of products we will launch this year that will enable people to inhale and exhale nicotine, cannabis, or CBD through the same single opening or mouthpiece on their vaporizer.
Have you inquired with or worked alongside regulators or other government officials to advance Philter’s goals and/or recognition? If yes, how so?
We are fortunate that because we are an accessory and not a delivery system for nicotine, we do not fall under the purview of the FDA. But because our products are so effective at removing the harmful elements of secondhand smoke, we believe they represent a chance to reimagine how vaping and smoking are regulated. To that end we created a Scientific Advisory Board of renowned experts with decades of experience in particulate science, toxicology, and regulatory affairs at the highest levels to help guide our efforts in this area, including:
- Dr. Willie J. McKinney is the Founder and CEO of McKinney Regulatory Science Advisors. Formerly at Altria and JUUL, Dr. McKinney is a noted scientific toxicologist and served as Vice President of Global Regulatory Affairs for JUUL labs in San Francisco.
- Dr. Michael S. Werley spent over two decades at Phlip Morris/Altria, most recently serving in the capacity of Principal Scientist. He has authored numerous research studies on tobacco, nicotine, toxicity, inhalation, exposure, and harm reduction.
Where do you hope to see Philter Labs ten years in the future?
We see vaporizing technology today to still be in its infancy and somewhat primitive. We believe that PHILTER, and filtering one’s secondhand smoke, is the next logical step in the progression to a cleaner, safer and more refined vaping experience that will become ubiquitous within the next decade. Very much like wearing a seatbelt or applying sunscreen in the morning.
What advice would you offer to entrepreneurs who are operating in or adjacent to the cannabis space?
I think any entrepreneur in this space would tell you that it is a fast-moving industry and understanding its many nuances is key. Staying educated on the current trends and hot topics along with the shifting laws is necessary to ride the waves successfully. Most importantly, listen to your customers’ needs and wants and don’t be afraid to pivot. There are more and more cannabis users who are new consumers and they will be the future of this industry. Evolving to meet their needs will be necessary. Finally, I would share with entrepreneurs in any industry, to always guide the business with your why. Fully embrace and embody your brand story and share it frequently as it will keep you motivated to build the business you’ve always envisioned.
Thanks, Christos, for answering all of our questions! For more information about Christos and his project, visit PhilterLabs.com.