Vape News In Brief: September 18th, 2018 Edition
Vape News In Brief: September 18th, 2018 Edition
VNIB is a semi-regular column in which Breazy takes 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 BIG NEWS. Last Wednesday, the FDA slapped 1300 violation letters and fines on vape shops, websites, and manufacturers across the country. The agency alleges the shops sold products to underage decoy buyers and advertised products appealing to children. Further, Juul and other cigalike makers were put on notice: They now have less than two months to deliver compelling plans to reduce underage vaping or risk losing the right to sell flavored liquid cartridges. If you click through on just one thing in this roundup, make it our expanded first-look coverage on this one.
This may get at the heart of why the FDA is so concerned about cigalikes. In the linked piece, we learn that Juul users are exposed to nearly as much nicotine as regular smokers. While nicotine on its own is a relatively benign stimulant unrelated to some of the more serious health concerns associated with tobacco smoke, it's still highly addictive, especially for young people whose brains are still developing. Considering that it's quickly become the product of choice for underage vapers, this new finding lends weight to anti-vapor activists' claims that vaping (ultra-high nicotine vaping, anyway) may drive addiction rates for the next generation.
After more than two decades, a nonprofit with the solitary goal of pushing the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 is finally gaining traction. In a world where tobacco and vapor products are considered one and the same, that means vapes too. Proponents point to studies indicating that 90 percent of smokers start before they're 18, and that they're less likely to have friends over 21 than they are 18 to 19, meaning without a straw buyer, teens' access to tobacco will be limited. This is so important because those who make it to adulthood as non-smokers are highly likely to remain that way. But in the face of success (six states and hundreds of local municipalities have raised their tobacco age to 21), pushback is on the rise from those who frame these restrictions as robbing young adults of freedom of choice. It's an interesting argument, to say the least, but worth pointing out, one that didn’t win out when it came to drinking age laws.
Here's a reminder from the small town of Neenah, WI, that in some respects a lot of work remains to be done to combat youth vaping. The town is just now considering banning the sale of vapor products to minors. You read that right – Wisconsin state law still allows people under age 18 to purchase and use vapor devices, as long as the liquid they're purchasing does not contain nicotine.
Science: this study throws us for a loop. Researchers in a California mall experimented with placing paper towels and terrycloth in several locations – inside a vape shop, in a neighboring store connected via its HVAC system, and in an open hallway. They found that some nicotine and other chemicals were found both on the towels left in the vape shop and in the adjacent business, but not in the hallway. This contradicts previous research suggesting that several factors, including the rapid degradation of exhaled vapor, meant there was little to no risk of affecting non-vapers. We'll be watching for more research that will hopefully clear up this conflicting info.
Here's something interesting: policy experts are saying access to vapor products in developing countries is a "human rights issue," and that steps need to be taken to reduce the cost of vaping in poorer countries. Helen Redmond, a substance use expert at New York University, says that people shouldn't be priced out of products that might help them quit smoking, stressing "the need to get vaping to the poorest, who need it most." That's certainly a refreshing attitude, but stands in stark contrast to the stance taken by countries like India where poverty and smoking rates are both high, but the government is still seeking to crack down on, rather than expand, vaping.
Longtime readers know we're big fans of Michael Siegel, a Boston University professor, longtime anti-smoking advocate, and strong believer in the power of vaping as a smoking cessation tool. His reaction to the recent FDA news is definitely worth a read. Key takeaway: If the FDA ends up banning flavored liquid it "would be a terrible mistake, because there are literally hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers over 21 who are currently using flavored e-cigarettes to stay off real tobacco cigarettes."
This South African op-ed entitled “Tobacco Kills, But Nicotine is a Lifesaver” is worth a peek. It argues against the inclusion of vapor products in broader anti-tobacco laws, calling vaping "a lifesaver" that would "minimize tobacco-related disease and maximize the potential of smokers being encouraged to quit." Particularly interesting is the wide gulf between the country’s approach to harm reduction for the its smoking problem (just quit) versus its handling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (become informed, make safer choices). The argument that medical nicotine replacement therapies such as the patch have failed because smokers generally don't want to see themselves as patients receiving treatment is also compelling.
We'll cap it here for now, but you know there's always more coming down the pike. Stay tuned…