Vape News In Brief: June 10th, 2019 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…
We've long saluted efforts in Great Britain to move people away from smoking along with the use of vapor products as a helpful transition. We've recently learned that food banks are giving away e-cigarettes to smokers that frequent them, and we couldn't approve more. The English estimate that the average Briton smoker could save 70 pounds (about $90) every week by switching. That's a significant addition to a weekly food budget that could free low-income people from the need to visit food banks, benefits of vaping over smoking to one's health aside.
New research once again confirms the theory that vaping is more effective in helping smokers quit than other forms of nicotine replacement therapy. Pharmaceutical firms, which hold significant influence over US politicians, produce and market nicotine gums and patches. Vapor companies, which until recently have not been backed by wealthy companies (that's changing with Marlboro parent Altria's investment in Juul), have considerably less influence over legislators. As such, less-effective cessation methods continue to be promoted in the US, while the method proven to be most effective cannot be legally marketed as a cessation aid.
Children without supportive families are more likely to experiment with e-cig use, according to a recent study. This is in line with findings related to other substances of abuse like alcohol, marijuana, or hard drugs, which are also more likely to find their way into the lives of youth without strong role models.
In a letter from Vuse cigalike parent RJ Reynolds to the FDA, the company aims to squarely place the blame for the ongoing teen vaping "epidemic" on the shoulders of Altria-backed Juul. Reynolds, makers of Camel cigarettes, and Altria, who also bring you Marlboro, are America's most prominent tobacco manufacturers, in addition to their recent investments in vaping. Reynolds, it must be said, is punching up: Juul currently holds more than 70% of the convenience store vapor product market share, while the Vuse lags far behind, with just 13% of sales in the category. Sales of traditional vapor products, because they largely happen online or in dedicated vape shops, are not tracked by market research firms. Reynolds' argument, should you choose to believe it, is that since their vapor sales are so small, they can't be blamed for the surge in underage popularity in the same way as the market leader.
Juul's attempts at reformed advertising are now coming under attack, as critics cite that the idea that vaping is preferable to smoking, despite being endorsed by health agencies worldwide, has not been officially endorsed by the FDA. Juul's latest advertising barrage, which we detail elsewhere on this blog, portrays actual middle-aged former smokers who've switched to vaping and are happy to have done so. No claims with regard to health or effectiveness as a smoking cessation aid are made in any of the ads, but the mere suggestion that smokers might be seeking an alternative is still seen by many as offensive.
Here's an interesting op-ed worthy of a click-through. Sure, it makes the usual arguments in favor of vaping, including a defense of the freedom of adults to choose which flavors they prefer to vape. Uniquely, it observes that the Master Settlement Agreement several Big Tobacco companies entered in the 1990s might actually be driving some of the actions, including those taken by the FDA, that are today working to keep people smoking who might otherwise be transitioning away from tobacco products.
Nicotine critics are accusing Big Tobacco of using their vapor products to skirt ad bans on tobacco products in auto racing by instead dressing the liveries of sponsored cars in anti-smoking, pro-vapor messages. We think vaping Ferraris are kind of cool, just saying.
Getting back to those Juul ad campaigns that drew so much heat domestically for employing young "influencers" on social media to promote the product, global Marlboro parent Philip Morris (separate from domestic parent Altria, which holds a major stake in Juul) just recently pulled similar ads. While the company says it doesn't employ models who "appear to be younger than 25," it still faced backlash for employing a 21-year-old Russian Instagram model to promote its "heat-not-burn" cigarettes, a sort of hybrid between vaping and smoking that's gained traction abroad but has only recently received approval to be sold in the US.
Are the days of ultra-high "salt based" nicotine cigalikes numbered? A Chinese company, Nano Vape, is working on new nanotechnology to create a nicotine that's absorbed much more efficiently by the body. Such a breakthrough means that one would need to consume a much lower dose of the highly-addictive chemical to experience its effects. We look forward to hearing more about this, as reducing the nicotine content of vapor devices is an imperative given recent reports of non-smokers becoming addicted to nicotine by using salt-based vapor devices.
The Wild West age of pre-regulation vapor products could end much sooner than anticipated, if a federal court judge gets his way. The FDA, regular readers will recall, first gained authority to regulate vapor products in 2016, and no new products were to be introduced to the market after August of that year. With the appointment of Trump pick Scott Gottlieb as FDA czar, vape manufacturers breathed a sigh of relief, as Gottlieb pushed back the drop-dead date for products to receive pre-market approval from 2017 to 2022. Facing harsh criticism and a growing number of underage users, Gottlieb then shaved a year off that deadline before stepping down. But due to a ruling last week favoring anti-vaping activists, the FDA has been given a 30-day notice to begin processing applications for vapor companies to remain in business or pull their products from the market. Such a move, if successful, could drive countless small vapor companies who can't afford the millions of dollars in application fees out of business, effectively handing the US vape market over to Big Tobacco.
North Carolina, meanwhile, is making headlines as the first state to sue Juul, alleging the company illegally markets (or marketed) its products to minors. Roughly 17 percent of North Carolina high schoolers say they've used a vapor device at least once in the last 30 days.
Juul, meanwhile, is striking back at vapor critics via the ballot box. Last week the company introduced a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters in the company's hometown of San Francisco, would block implementation of a complete ban on the sale of vapor products put forth by a county supervisor. The company still has to collect the signatures of 9500 San Franciscans in order to qualify its measure for a vote, but given the deep pockets of Altria we're confident that this will come to pass. Locals can expect a bloody fight over this issue in the months to come…
We've hit on this before, but as the popularity of closed-system vapor devices rises, so does the problem of what to do with spent single-use pods. Colorado is calling them the cigarette butts of the future, but because of the plastics, metals, and nicotine involved, they're difficult to properly dispose of or recycle. Lithium ion batteries add another wrinkle to the mix. We noted last week that Nevada, spurred by the proliferation of single-use cannabis vaping devices, has implemented a vape recycling program – hopefully more will follow soon.
In spite of all the negative press, Juul's valuation by financial experts has soared to over $38 billion. The company is continuing to attract investors, suggesting the smart money is betting on either the survival of vaping as a whole or a blanket ban on the smaller companies that launched the industry being a boon for Big Tobacco-backed survivors.
New research suggests that teens who collect promotional items from vapor companies are more likely to try vapor products. Marketing to minors, including providing promotional items or samples, we'll note, is already illegal. The problem arises when controls aren't effectively enforced.
We'll end with your 15 Celebrity Seconds: British reality TV star Katie Price was recently invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of a new Irish vape shop. Problem: either no one knew about the event or no one cared, as a reported six people showed up to brush elbows with Price, who recently returned from a trip abroad for liposuction, facelift, and buttocks injection surgeries.
That's all the vape news that's fit to print, and some that probably isn't. See you next time!