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Vape News In Brief: December 6th, 2018 Edition

Vape News In Brief: December 6th, 2018 Edition

Welcome to Breazy Briefs, where we take a look around the globe, searching for news, science, and the occasional tasty pop culture tidbit related to vaping and the life of vapers. Today, let's talk about…

…cigalike giant Juul, seemingly always a staple of our coverage. Last week, researchers from Stanford University (coincidentally the alma mater of Juul's founders) unveiled a new project examining the media campaigns that fueled Juul’s meteoric growth since its 2015 launch. The ad collection includes photos of Juul’s launch parties the researchers says were aimed at youth and designed to encourage early adopters to become "Juul influencers" on social media. Other examples show the disturbing similarities between Juul’s colorful ads featuring young models and ad campaigns used in years past by tobacco companies. Juul has long since abandoned the use of twenty-something models and recently dramatically cut back its social media presence, but the moves have done little to stymie criticism of the company's early missteps.


The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the US's leading hospitals for cancer treatment, has released a list of findings about vaping considered to be established medical fact. Number one on the list: "E-cigarettes are considered safer than traditional cigarettes, but they are still not considered safe." It’s ridiculous to argue that breathing in something that isn't clean fresh air is better than breathing in just clean fresh air, but it's refreshing to hear acknowledgment from more and more medical authorities that vaping is a reduced-risk activity when compared to smoking.


BB Celebrity Minute: It came to light recently that deceased Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller maintained a secret Instagram account under the pseudonym Lars using "cloudywithachanceofawesome69" for a handle. The jokester used the account to help followers "maximize the level of litness" through "vape tricks" that included shoving cherry tomatoes up his nose. RIP Mac.


This op-ed from libertarian pundit John Stossel makes these points: vaping is a lot better than smoking. Stopping people, both kids and adults, from smoking should be the primary goal of any meaningful harm-reduction policy. Now, the hot take: if kids are going to experiment with substances anyway, wouldn't we rather have them vaping than smoking? And is it really worth harming adult smokers by limiting their access to vapor products in order to try to stop the natural proclivity for teens to be curious. Smoking hot: the reason kids are vaping in the first place is because the government and media are talking about kids vaping! If vaping didn't get so much attention, fewer youth would be curious about it in the first place.


File to: Berserk Criminals. In the latest occurrence of vape robberies going badly, we present this person, who broke into a vape shop with a duffel bag over his/her head. The perp is described only as "very short" and "appearing to be in a big hurry." Accompanying video shows the bag-headed person racing from display case to display case in a closed vape shop, though it isn't clear whether they find what they were looking for before running off-camera.



It's been a while since we've visited jailhouse vaping in the US, but it's a trend that seems to slowly be gaining traction. Special cigalike disposables designed so that they can't be weaponized are now available at lockups in more than 30 states, and jailers credit them with reducing fighting and prisoner anxiety in places where traditional tobacco is typically banned and many new inmates come in fighting not just nicotine addiction but withdrawal symptoms from much more serious drugs, leaving them on-edge and prone to violence.


Fresh on the heels of news that tobacco giant Altria (US parent to the Marlboro and MarkTen brands) would voluntarily pull their pod-based cigalikes from shelves, reports have emerged that the company is in talks to take a minority ownership stake in Juul. This is B-I-G news on a few fronts, as Juul right now has the only pod system that is technically legal if the FDA elects to enforce its ban on introducing new products after August 2016 without pre-market approval. And while providing Juul with a deep-pocketed partner with experience dealing with federal regulators, it would also force the independent company to abandon its long-held assertion that it's not affiliated with Big Tobacco. That last one is a major point of difference when it comes to the other significant convenience store brands. Regardless of what happens, Altria stockholders seem to like the news. Juul employees, meanwhile, are less enthused.

Lawmakers in Indiana, as in many other states, are facing pressure to increase taxes on cigarettes in order to dissuade youth from buying them. This article addresses the challenge they'll face in doing so in a relatively tax-averse state (Indiana ranks 38th in tobacco tax rates at the moment), and also presents an interesting vapor argument. Vaping is generally considered cheaper than smoking. That's long been one of the draws in convincing smokers to switch, and only seven states currently have vape-specific taxes on the books. But if the goal is to leverage taxes to make it harder for young people to afford to smoke, shouldn't there also be higher taxes imposed on vapor products as well? That's the case the authors here are trying to make.

Big Tobacco's Master Settlement Agreement turned 20 years old last week. As part of the biggest reform in the history of the tobacco industry, cigarette makers have been paying tens of billions ($27 billion in 2018 alone) to states to fund anti-tobacco advertising and quit assistance programs. But as cigarette sales continue to decline, revenues from the agreement, which are tied to total sales figures, are falling as well. The linked piece here is a good introduction to the complicated politics of the agreement and the perverse incentive it creates to keep cigarette sales from falling too much. Just 3 percent of the settlement funds, for example, are being used for tobacco prevention efforts, with much of the money being directed toward other budgetary shortfalls or used as an offset for tax cuts. The resulting situation has left pretty much everyone dissatisfied.

In more on the flavor ban front, California is the first state to explore a complete flavor ban at any brick-and-mortar store. The proposed legislation doesn't appear to cover online sales, and it's too early to tell whether there's a carve-out for vape shops and other age-restricted locations, as the recent federal ban includes. We'll be watching this one for more.

Here's some good news: the habits vapers develop may help them avoid relapsing into smoking. Because switching to vaping is usually a gradual process, former smokers learn not to beat themselves up too bad if they slip up and have an occasional smoke. That means that sneaking a smoke here or there makes it less likely for a vaper to dive back into smoking full-time than someone who quit via other means.

Let's call that a wrap for this week. We'll be back soon, so be sure to stay tuned…