We trust the news as a source of information. But what happens when the information they spread is wrong? Not only could it put people's health at risk, but also endanger people's livelihoods.
In September of 2019, the media was taken by storm by an increase of illnesses sweeping hospitals across the United States. Media outlets jumped on the story, covering the cause of the illnesses with a blanket term - “vaping”. From September 2019 until January 2020, the CDC has reported that individuals should avoid e-cigarettes and/or vaping until further notice. It wasn’t until February 2020, the CDC reported that Vitamin E Acetate in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products are the primary cause of EVALI(e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) cases.
This misinformation in the media and delay in reliable information regarding the cause of the illnesses had a far reaching effect on millions of peoples lives. It caused not only people to become scared of a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes, and in many cases revert back to smoking, but also losses to the thousands of vape shops across the United States. Damage to a large scale industry is bad enough, but the majority of vape shops are owned by small business owners who simply want to help people have a safer alternative to cigarettes and a way to stop smoking.
Given all the recent misinformation in the media, let’s break down some of the major questions.
What is Vaping?
Vaping is the use of an electronic device to inhale a form of vapor. This vapor can contain nicotine in variable levels, or simply flavored liquid. There are only four ingredients in most vape juices (compared to the 600 ingredients and 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes). Vape juice contains the following:
Propylene Glycol, which is found in many foods, drugs and cosmetics and regularly ingested in some form.
Glycerine, which is also found in many foods, as well as prescription and over the counter drugs.
Nicotine, the non carcinogenic derivative from tobacco.
Flavoring, which is also found in many things people ingest every day.
While no thing is 100% safe to inhale (even the air in many polluted areas), vaping is used as a harm reduction technique as well as a smoking cessation technique for millions of Americans who wish to no longer rely on combustible cigarettes. The wide variety of flavor and nicotine levels present in the e-liquid provide a range of options for those seeking to quit smoking, and a way to wean oneself off of nicotine over time.
What is The Difference Between Nicotine Vaping and THC?
Whereas vaping products are used for smoking cessation, THC products have a wider range. While they are often used for personal enjoyment, many THC products are also used for pain management, anxiety, sleep, and just living a better life.
However the problem of THC products arises when they are not purchased legally from a dispensary, but rather from informal sources like family, friends, or online/in person dealers.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cartridges, also known as dab pens or carts, contain either a distillate or CO2 extracted THC, polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, terpenes and even medium chain triglycerides such as coconut oil.
Does flavored nicotine e-liquid cause EVALI?
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that Vitamin E Acetate, used as a thickening agent for THC cartridges are the primary cause of EVALI. Vitamin E Acetate is used to put less THC concentrate into the cartridge, make a larger profit, and make the cartridge look legitimate (as if it were from a dispensary).
Do Flavored Nicotine Juices Help People Quit?
Yes! Flavored nicotine e-liquids are a staple in helping people transition from traditional tobacco products to vapor products. In an unofficial study conducted by www.yes-i-vape.com, 2,902 people were surveyed on vaping versus smoking cessation products and methods. The breakdown is as follows:
- 45.7% used fruit flavors
- 30.1% used dessert flavors
- 8.1% used candy flavors
- 4.5% used butters and creams
- 4.1% used mint and menthol
- 3.3% used tobacco
- 1.4% used café/spices
- 1.2% used a drink flavor
- 0.2% did not use flavor in their e-liquids
Only 1.3% said that it did not apply as they began vaping without using tobacco products prior. Alongside this, 96.7% of individuals successfully quit smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products due to vaping, while 1.6% said it did not help them quit, and 1.7% said it did not apply.
The numbers speak for themselves - flavors are vital to helping individuals quit smoking cigarettes or quit using tobacco products such as cigars, hookah and chewing tobacco.
How Has This Impacted Vape Shops?
Although there is no official number, states such as Michigan, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon and Montana have banned flavored nicotine e-liquid as a protective matter for their respective citizens as well as attempt to curb youth vaping. New York has been attempting to ban flavored nicotine e-liquids but has not been successful. An estimated 200 vape shops have closed throughout the United States due to these bans.
Some shops have also reported that they have lost over 70% of business, forcing closures to come. What does this mean for the everyday person in the industry?
Imagine it. You own a business. You love this business, this creation that helps people. You get to go to a job you love, and provide a service and information for people. Your customers keep coming back, and you get to know them by name. You know their struggles with quitting cigarettes, you learn about their families and their days, their lives outside of your shop that you invested into. You are just as excited to hear about their daughters soccer game, or how well their son is doing in school. You know these people, they become more than just customers. They become friends.
But one day, the media starts talking about vaping. Many outlets are grossly misinformed about what vaping really is, and uses it as a blanket term for anything that you inhale from an electronic device. Your sales start to dip. The customers that you love to see slowly stop coming in because of the fear of vaping. You cut the hours of your few employees, but try to hold out hope.
Then, you are hit by a flavor ban. All that liquid you stocked, the flavors you created for your customers? Gone, just like that. Thousands of dollars of product suddenly rendered useless. This investment, this business that you love, suffering. What do you do then? You could still sell the devices and accessories, but what can you do for your customers who love your flavors? What can you do for your employees who depend upon their paychecks to pay rent, to care for their children, to feed themselves?
What do you do for yourself?
It’s a reality many are facing in the industry. Not only are the consumers suffering, but the people who put their heart into their job every day. It’s leaving people without jobs, without their livelihood. Its hurting honest Americans who rely on their income to survive and want to make a difference in the world in their own way.
How Does This Affect Current Smokers?
In the United States, there are roughly 480,000 deaths annually from smoking cigarettes and secondhand smoke. There are approximately 13 million in the United States who use flavored nicotine e-liquid products to not smoke traditional cigarettes or use any form of tobacco.
Banning flavored nicotine e-liquids would cause harm to the 13,000,000 individuals who have successfully quit smoking cigarettes and eliminate an option for current smokers to stop smoking cigarettes. Take for example the United Kingdom, who promotes the usage of e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes. The Royal College of Physicians reports that e-cigarettes and/or flavored nicotine e-liquids to be 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Although more research needs to be completed, there is a lot of harm reduction when allowing vapor products to be on the market.
How Does Vaping Impact the Economy?
The Vapor Technology Association (VTA) has done extensive assessments on the economic impact. According to the VTA, the industry has created 166,007 jobs, paid out $7,897,889,500 for wages and benefits, and has paid $4,985,442,200 in federal, state and local taxes throughout the United States. Overall, the vapor industry generates $24,457,512,300 for the economy.
These are big numbers that have quite the impact on the economy itself, and the complete erasure of the vaping industry would hurt many Americans who rely on these businesses as their livelihood.
Does “Big Vape” Exist?
Unfortunately, yes. However, “Big Vape” is owned by Big Tobacco. Companies such as JUUL (owned by Altria which is associated with Phillip Morris), Blu (which is owned by Imperial) and Vuse (which is owned by R.J. Reynolds) control Big Vape.
The 15,000-19,000 vape shops in the United States are not controlled by Big Tobacco. Vape shops are typically small, independent businesses. There are a few “chain” vape shops, such as Avail Vapors, Craving Vapors, and Blue Monkey Vapors, but are still under a small business, not a large company such as Phillip Morris.
The vape shops that are closing are small businesses, not large companies and corporations who can take a hit or two if a shop closes. These are hard working individuals who are working toward the American Dream, building a better life for themselves and others. It is on their backs that the industry truly lays, and where the biggest hit will be taken if the misinformation continues on its course.
What happens if bans go into effect?
As we’ve seen with the war on drugs and alcohol prohibition, people will begin to create their own product to use. This could cause adverse reactions for those who are attempting to quit smoking cigarettes. The flavoring used in e-liquids are usually propylene glycol based, but with the inability to order proper flavorings, there are risks of using essential oils or attempts to extract their own flavors. There also runs a risk of not using vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol, but using products such as coconut oil or other medium chain triglycerides.
Another major harm could happen, where individuals begin to attempt to make their own devices such as box mods. Without the proper knowledge of electrical currents, there could be issues in devices venting. Others may attempt to rebuild their prebuilt coils, which could be dangerous as well with batteries venting due to not following and/or understanding Ohm’s Law.
What Comes Next?
Unfortunately the fight is far from over. Everyone in the industry wants to provide a safer alternative for customers. They want to be able to continue to help people find healthier alternatives to cigarettes.
But as of right now, there is a process called the Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA) that is due by May 12, 2020. This is a multi-million-dollar ordeal that will close 95% of vape shops.
The PMTA is required for all e-liquids, devices, atomizers/coils, batteries and any other associated product with e-cigarettes and/or vaping.
For e-liquids, this cost is exponentially expensive. Each e-liquid will cost $249,129 per nicotine strength. To pass four nicotine levels (0mg, 3mg, 6mg and 9mg for example), this will cost $996,516. No small business can afford this. Most e-liquid manufacturers have at least four flavors. Four flavors, available in four nicotine levels, will cost $3,986,064.
Almost four million dollars, and that is just to apply for approval, not a guarantee for approval. Companies that can afford such a high dollar amount may not stay in business as the e-liquid itself may not be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Vape shop owners and employees are attempting for a reform of the PMTA, as this process is insanely expensive, and thousands of shops will go out of business. Due in part to the misinformation spread and the EVALI cases, many shops have already experienced the pain of having to close down, and there will be many more to come if the PMTA’s continue as planned.
What happens next is the spread of information. Learn what you can, learn the truth. Support your friends and family who choose to vape, and know that they are trying to live a healthier life than on cigarettes.
We want to keep our jobs. We want to continue to help people.
We want to make a difference in the ways we can.