Vape News In Brief: May 3rd, 2019 Edition
Vape News In Brief: May 3rd, 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…
…the future of Big Tobacco, which lead industry specialist Bonnie Herzog of Wells Fargo believes is strong. Philip Morris' US affiliate Altria is positioned particularly strongly, with huge investments in cigalike giant Juul and marijuana marketer Cronos hedging against the continuing likelihood that fewer people in the future will be smoking tobacco. Basically, Big Tobacco survives and thrives by pushing out small business that currently dominate the vapor and cannabis fields, transforming the industries into Big Vape and Big Pot, where a handful of players control the bulk of the popular brands.
Things keep looking up in India, where the nation's trade ministry says there's no legal basis for banning the import of vapor products. Anti-vapor advocates in the country had been pushing hard for a complete ban on vaping nationwide, but they've run into a number of hurdles in recent months that have delayed or decreased the likelihood of implementation of a ban. In the latest blow, the country's trade ministers say refusing to allow for import of the devices would violate national law and World Trade Organization conventions unless a blanket ban already exists in India, which vapor advocates have fought tooth and nail. The country's 100 million smokers (second in number only to China) make tobacco a $12 billion business, while vaping only generated about $16 million in 2017 sales, experts say the market for vapor products is growing by 60 percent a year and unlikely to slow down soon.
This next piece comes from the Big Tobacco-financed right-leaning think tank Heartland Institute, but it raises an interesting question: why do lawmakers care more about vaping than opioid abuse? We're strongly on board with any action to discourage the underage use of vapor products while supporting the rights of adult ex-smokers to access the tools that help them switch, but when painkiller abuse is literally killing tens of thousands of Americans and fewer teens than ever in recorded history report using combustible tobacco cigarettes, a question of which problem deserves more resources and media attention seems reasonable.
Indiana has vaping in its crosshairs once again, with the Hoosier state aiming to enact a 20 percent tax on vapor products. Longtime readers may recall a disastrous attempt at regulation that threatened to nearly eliminate the availability of e-liquid in 2016, driving dozens of vape businesses into bankruptcy. That bill ultimately failed, as lawmakers backtracked under a cloud of poor implementation. The new tax? Some vapers say they're still happy vaping is cheaper than their old smoking habit, but store owners protest that the tax would effectively bring the level of vapor taxation all the way up to current tobacco thresholds while the state imposes no tax on alcohol, junk food, or other unhealthy habits.
Drug store megachain Rite Aid says they're phasing out the sale of vapor products, though combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes will remain widely available. This is 2019 America. On the upside, the store is adding a handful of CBD-infused products to its health and wellness section. Regardless, the company's stock dropped 10% in the wake of the announcement to support tobacco over harm reduction.
The University of Colorado has received $3.6 million in federal funding to create an advanced artificial lung that will be used to study the effects of vaping, hookah, and other alternatives to smoking. Researchers frame the argument as if they're already convinced these are harmful activities and they want to illustrate the maximum level of toxicity, but we're nonetheless anxious to see the results. Vaping is not a risk-free activity, and if the power of science could be harnessed to identify the riskiest compounds and eliminate them from future vapor products, we're very much in favor of further reducing their potential harm.
Here's an interesting idea: Juul has created a website where adults can enter the serial number of the company's cigalike battery that's been confiscated from a minor. This would then help the manufacturer track batches where an inordinate number of devices are reaching underage consumers, helping them identify problematic dealers or distributors. Of course, there's plenty of potential for abuse: perhaps retailers get a bum rap because some adult customers happen to be purchasing for illegal resale, maybe the system could be gamed by one retailer to drive another out of the vapor business. But it's a start, and a commendable one at that.
We've been hearing this for a while now, but the stories of teens becoming "nic sick" or suffering from mild nicotine overdoses, is on the rise. Anti-vaping advocates are blaming the rise of salt-based nicotine extracts, which are many times more potent than traditional e-liquids, for the trend. One thing we'll note that the linked article gets wrong: vaping is actually a much less effective way to consume nicotine than smoking, which is part of the reason cigalike manufacturers have pushed for ever-higher nicotine levels in their products to deliver an adequate dose for smokers struggling to quit.
Over in the Philippines, vapor advocates are slamming the country's Food and Drug Administration for using "outdated and scientifically flawed opinions that disregard the scientific evidence supporting the reduced harm" of e-cigarettes to argue for harsher restrictions on vaping. Rather than encouraging teens and young adults to smoke, the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates says, these groups in the country are simply more likely than their older counterparts to be willing to switch from smoking.
This op-ed is worth a read for its exploration of "psychological reactance," a phenomenon wherein messaging that seeks to dissuade people from certain actions, such as with teens and vaping, creates a threat to one's sense of personal freedom and instead causes the target audience to more actively seek out the perceived freedom that is being stripped away from them. In that sense, the FDA's latest ad campaign, which not only implies massive physical deformities and internal parasites are caused by vaping but that it's a popular and socially accepted activity that must be forbidden, may be backfiring in a huge way.
As vapers find themselves chased out of many social spaces, one seems to be welcoming them with open arms: EDM festivals. We're going to have to point out that this article's argument that vaping can be beneficial is flawed (it's better than smoking if you'd otherwise smoke, but you're best served doing neither), but the general welcoming tone is, well . . . welcome.
In an ominous warning of what may be coming, acting FDA chief Ned Sharpless has promised to continue outgoing commissioner Scott Gottlieb's war on vaping. The linked article mainly contains vague platitudes to stopping advertising aimed at underage consumers (we're on board with this) and "more regulation in the tobacco space," so it's uncertain what direction Sharpless has in mind when it comes to an ongoing vape crackdown. We'll be watching, though.
Potentially crippling overreach: a pair of senators have introduced a bill that would, among other things, ban all online sales of vapor products. The tried and true line of doing this "for the children" is in full effect, and some provisions such as raising the tobacco age nationwide to 21 (studies show the later someone starts using nicotine the less likely they are to pick up the habit) may be effective. But a complete flavor ban on all tobacco products and "tobacco products," including menthol, along with a total ban on online sales, seems to our (admittedly biased) perspective a bridge too far, punishing responsible consumers and vendors for the actions taken by irresponsible actors.
A competing bill to the aforementioned one seeks simply to raise the minimum nicotine products age to 21. It seems this is being reported as if it's simply a face-saving measure on the part of "Big Vape," but at least its motivations are rooted in large extent to verifiable science. One reported problem with Tobacco 21 legislation, as it's been called: people who provide tobacco products to underaged youth, rather than their employers, are usually the ones punished for breaking the law.
Okay, we're going to tap out here for now. But be sure to tune in again next week, where we'll have plenty more of last week's news to share once again!