Vape News In Brief: May 16th, 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…
…something the mainstream media is finally picking up on: Big Tobacco is morphing into Big Vape. The linked piece shows how Marlboro parent Altria's massive $13 billion investment in cigalike giant Juul positions both companies to take advantage of a continuing decline in the demand for combustible tobacco products amidst the rise of vaping. But it's not the first time an entry-level vapor device has been devoured by a legacy Big Tobacco company – in recent years Njoy and Blu have also been gobbled up by tobacco firms looking ahead to a tobacco-free future. Juul's founders, wisely, have for now retained a majority stake in their company as vaping continues its bid to replace smoking in the years to come.
Unsurprisingly, a federation of small businesses says local retailers will be hurt by a San Francisco proposal to ban the sale of vapor devices. Such a ban would drive dozens of Bay Area vape shops, already hurt by a groundbreaking ban on flavored e-liquid, out of business. "I care more about our youth then I do about profits," responded Board of Supervisors member Shamann Walton, sponsor of the proposal and apparently failing to recognize unenforced laws already exist banning minors from purchasing vapor products in California.
This op-ed from a Pennsylvania physician contains nearly every misleading opinion and falsehood advanced by the anti-vapor crowd, neatly wrapped up into one blog post. First, the author applauds the Rite-Aid pharmacy chain for discontinuing the sale of vapor products while giving them a pass for continuing to sell cigarettes. Next, she notes that tobacco use had been trending down amongst underage users until a recent spike coinciding with the rise in popularity of new-generation cigalikes. Again left unsaid is that teen use of combustible tobacco products that transmit tar and thousands of other chemicals to the user's lungs is still declining, and in fact is at the lowest rate ever recorded in the country's history. It's acknowledged that the sale of any nicotine product to a minor is already illegal, but somehow restricting adult access to vapor products is presented without explanation as a solution better than enforcing existing laws. What a shame.
More on the anti-vape front: critics are attacking Republicans, who've recently come on board with a long-standing Democratic push for Tobacco 21, a nationwide initiative to raise the minimum age for access to nicotine products to 21, as a "Trojan horse" meant to stymie efforts to instead ban adult access to flavored e-liquids, which have been widely proven instrumental in vapers' efforts to quit smoking. Full disclosure: we support raising the age of access to nicotine and already enforce a minimum customer age of 21. Tighter age restrictions have been shown to limit youth access, as minors are less likely to have an acquaintance over 21 willing to break the law to illegally purchase product. But presented with an overwhelming body of evidence that a choice of flavors in vaping is critical to smokers attempting to quit by switching to vaping, we believe adults should have access to their vape of choice.
Speaking of Tobacco 21 another massive pharmacy, Walgreen's, has recently announced that they'll stop selling tobacco products to customers under 21, regardless of local laws that might be more permissive. Good for them, even though the move comes only after numerous outlets have been caught illegally selling tobacco to minors.
We've long been hearing that teen vaping, despite being labeled as having reached 'epidemic' proportions, might actually be underreported due to a language barrier between adults and teens. Many teen fans of the Juul cigalike, it seems, don't believe they're vaping when they use the device, instead they're 'juuling.' For the first time this year, a nationwide survey of teen nicotine use will include juuling as a separate category. While on the surface this seems a bit perplexing, the upshot is that not only will the survey identify underaged vapers, it'll specifically determine whether they're drawn to vapor products in general or specifically to the ultra-high nicotine Juul.
A new study on vaping finds that smokers in the UK are more likely than their US counterparts to try vaping as a means of tobacco cessation. This isn't surprising, given the widely divergent government views on whether vapor products are a tool to wean adult smokers off tobacco or a means of enticing non-smokers to pick up a nicotine habit. Still, the vast majority of adult vapers even in the US are either current smokers (58.8 percent) or former smokers ("nearly 30 percent"). Just 11.4 percent of US adults who'd vaped in the last 30 days reported never having been regular users of combustible tobacco products.
British American Tobacco, who we reported on last week for catching flak from Canadian authorities over a pop-up vape sampling stand, is now facing scrutiny over Instagram marketing of its Vype cigalike product. In the face of criticism for marketing on youth-friendly platforms like Instagram, Altria/Marlboro-backed Juul pulled all of its advertising, it's odd to see other Big Tobacco vapes instead diving into such treacherous waters.
The future is now: the latest tobacco sales reports show demand for cigarettes in convenience stores continues to decline, while vapor product sales soar. This, despite market leader Juul voluntarily pulling their flavored products from all stores and going to an online-only model. Analysts expect demand for cigarettes to continue dropping as more and more smokers seek out vapor products as a harm reduction alternative.
Let's call it a wrap for this week. When next week's news breaks, rest assured we'll be here to fix it…