‘MONEY.’ We could use this single word to describe the real reason why states are banning vapes. If you genuinely believe the authorities are putting public health first, there is a good chance you’ll fall victim to a Ponzi Scheme shortly! America is apparently in the midst of a ‘vaping crisis.’
Indeed, it is no laughing matter. As of the middle of October 2019, there were 33 deaths attributed to vaping and over 1,500 cases of pulmonary disease. According to the CDC, the majority of patients report a history of vaping with THC products. The organization now urges people not to use a vape device or e-cigarette containing THC.
For the record, a significant majority of the victims are young males. 80% are aged 35 or younger, and 70% are male. Symptoms of the illness include chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Perhaps the most interesting piece of information, however, is the fact that almost every case involved THC taken off the street and not sanctioned providers. In other words, it is black market junk causing the damage rather than the act of vaping or the THC cannabinoid.
Vaping Faces the Ban Hammer
The speed at which various states have acted is staggering. Yes, the death toll is horrifying, and a thorough investigation is essential. However, there is little doubt that the CDC and numerous state governments have engaged in a hysterical overreaction. Juul is one of the biggest e-cigarette sellers in the world, and in October, it announced the suspension of sales of fruit-flavored and non-tobacco (this is significant for reasons you will learn later) flavored products in America.
In September 2019, the Trump Administration announced its plans to ban all electronic cigarettes that don’t taste like tobacco. Then, in June 2019, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes. In September 2019, New York tried to become the first state to issue a statewide ban on flavored nicotine products, but an appellate court placed a temporary hold on the prohibition in early October.
States Trying to Act Against Vaping
Here is a quick look at several states trying to take action against vaping. The following is not an exhaustive list:
- California: The state’s governor issued an executive order on September 16 to deal with the rising youth vaping epidemic.
- Massachusetts: There is a temporary ban on all e-cigarette sales. Implemented in September 2019, the ban runs until January 25, 2020.
- Michigan: The state’s governor outlined her goal of issuing an emergency ban on the retail sale of nicotine vaping products. All flavors are affected, except tobacco.
- Montana: An attempt at a complete ban on all flavored e-cigarettes, including those containing CBD and THC was curtailed by a temporary restraining order on October 19.
- Oregon: On October 11, the state tried to implement rules to prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine and cannabis products. Again, an appeals judge blocked the policy, although the ban on marijuana items remains in place.
- Rhode Island: There is a ban of 120 days in place with an option to extend for another 60 days.
- Washington: The state implemented an emergency rule that banned the sale of vaping products on October 9. The law will remain in place for 120 days.
States, including Delaware, New Jersey, and Illinois are also looking to implement similar legislation. In most cases, vaping stores have filed lawsuits claiming that the action will put them out of business. The tide has quickly turned against vaping, and it seems inevitable that a nationwide ban will occur.
Vaping – The Story so Far
Joseph Robinson was probably the first to come up with the idea of an electronic cigarette in 1927, although instances of inhaling vapor goes back millennia. The smokeless non-tobacco cigarette of Herbert Gilbert in 1963 briefly made an appearance before Big Tobacco regained its hold. Hon Lik has received acclaim as the brains behind the modern e-cig, as he ‘invented’ it in 2003.
Initially, vaping was a minor irritation to the tobacco industry, but soon, it became a threat. According to Grand View Research, the global e-cigarette and vape market was worth around $1.88 billion in 2015. By 2019, that figure rose to over $10 billion. With an expected CAGR of 24% for the next six years, there is no doubt that vaping is a threat to the tobacco industry.
Of course, there is no danger of vaping completely taking over. The global tobacco industry is worth $663 billion, according to Orian, and is set to exceed $1 trillion by 2026. However, the market’s CAGR is projected at just 4.6% across the next seven years. If nothing else, e-cigs are taking a bite out of tobacco, and the big guns don’t like it.
Proponents of vaping claim it has helped them quit tobacco cigarettes. You can purchase e-liquids in various nicotine strengths, and gradually wean yourself off the chemical by reducing the dosage gradually. Most research suggests that it is the nicotine in cigarettes that makes them so hard to stay away from. In theory, switching to e-cigs also reduces your exposure to the hundreds of carcinogens in tobacco cigarettes.
The Sudden Vaping Crisis – What Is Happening?
Although it is a nascent industry, vaping did not attract such a level of concern in its first few years as a mainstream product. Perhaps it is a case of e-cigarettes taking a few years to cause damage? In any case, there were concerns about vaping from the beginning. There were a few examples of exploding e-cigs killing and disfiguring people.
However, the current crisis only seemed to begin in the fall of 2018. There were three instances of Juul users developing seizures after using an e-cig. Cases involving lung illness from vaping were first reported in Wisconsin and Illinois in April 2019. Dozens of deaths and well over a thousand cases of lung disease later, and we have a full-blown epidemic.
There is a significant rise in the number of youths using vaping devices. An estimated 4.9 million American teens used an e-cigarette in 2018, an increase of 1.5 million on the 2017 figure.
What’s concerning is that there are reported cases in practically every state. At the time of writing, Alaska is the only unaffected state. There are even issues with vaping in the U.S. Virgin Islands! Although the CDC called the condition ‘a disease’ early on, it quickly stated that it wasn’t referring to infectious bacterial diseases or viruses.
According to its principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, it is a “lung injury associated with e-cigarettes or vaping.” Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Severe shortness of breath
A lot of patients developed symptoms over a handful of days, although it was more gradual in other cases.
What’s the Likely Cause?
At first glance, the crisis is manna from heaven for Big Tobacco and anti-marijuana campaigners. According to the CDC, 78% of patients had a history of using vaping products containing THC, or THC and nicotine. An estimated 13% of affected individuals used nicotine products only. However, we must remember that this data comes from self-reports.
In Illinois and Wisconsin, investigators spoke to 86 patients. They found that these individuals used over 200 products and almost 90 different brands! However, 57 of the patients used a brand called Dank Vapes. Mystery solved? Not quite. You can find ‘Dank Vapes’ packaging online easily. In other words, it is a ‘brand’ used by counterfeit producers.
In New York, researchers linked a chemical called vitamin E acetate with the epidemic. It can coat the inside of the lungs with a grease-like substance. Alas, not every case is linked with the chemical. What seems likely is that the vast majority of cases involve illegal black-market products.
As a consequence, a nationwide ban on legitimate vaping companies will not work. It will probably make matters worse. If we remove ‘safer’ brands from the market, what do you think will happen when prospective vapers have no option but to seek out illicit products? Once again, federal and state governments are not thinking before acting. Or, maybe they are?
Won’t Someone PLEASE Think of the Children?
When the goal is to ban something or make it unpopular, the smart thing to do is claim it hurts children disproportionately (see Reefer Madness for evidence). In the case of the vaping epidemic, it is the truth. Data collected by the CDC and FDA in 2019 showed that up to 25% of teenagers vaped at least once a day in the previous month. A NIDA funded study showed that almost 12% of high school students vaped a minimum of 20 days out of the last month.
A different CDC report showed that 20.8% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018. However, 27.1% used any tobacco product. Furthermore, an estimated 2,000 youths aged 17 or under try their first tobacco cigarette every day. What’s truly terrifying is that if cigarette smoking continues at its current rate in the United States, 5.6 million Americans currently aged 17 or younger will die from a smoking-related illness.
Smoking vs. Vaping
The last thing we wish to do is get involved in a case of ‘whataboutism’ but the fact is, tobacco smoking is infinitely more dangerous than vaping. Yes, the deaths from vaping are an extremely concerning issue. However, the government wants to ban an industry for what is likely fewer than 100 deaths in a year. The sudden spike in fatalities suggests the figure will increase in 2020, but how does it compare to cigarettes?
Smoking kills approximately 480,000 Americans each year. Over 16 million of us live with a disease caused by smoking. Here are some other quick stats:
- 88,000 Americans die from an alcohol-related issue annually.
- An opioid overdose claimed the lives of 47,600 people in the U.S. in 2017.
- There were 39,773 gun deaths in America in 2018.
While there are calls for gun control and an acknowledgment that we have an opioid crisis on our hands, few are calling for outright bans. More pertinently, neither state nor federal governments have acted anywhere near as quickly when it comes to other burning issues.
This begs the question: What is the real reason for banning vapes? As we said in the opening line, it is all about money.
The Master Settlement Agreement – How Big Tobacco Took Control
The tobacco industry has arguably the best marketers on the planet working for it. How else can you explain the continued growth of a market that sells a killer product? America was the first country in the world to require the issuing of a health warning on cigarette packages. We have known that cigarettes are deadly for over 50 years, yet continue to use them!
Big Tobacco knows that money solves most problems. As a result, they have an army of lobbyists who offer ‘generous donations’ to lawmakers. Tobacco cigarettes would be illegal in any sane society. Instead, it is a multi-billion-dollar industry!
One could argue that the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) of November 1998 was a masterstroke by Big Tobacco. The nation’s four largest cigarette manufacturers signed an accord with five American territories, 46 state Attorneys General, and Washington D.C. The MSA concerned the advertising, marketing, and promotion of cigarettes.
As well as agreeing to pay billions of dollars to each state annually as a permanent ‘settlement,’ tobacco companies agreed to restrictions on the sale and marketing of their products. The cash was a quick and easy way to settle existing and future lawsuits.
Money for Nothing, Getting Cigs for Free
In theory, states were supposed to use the money on programs that encouraged people to quit and urged kids not to start. States were also supposed to use the windfalls as a means of funding cancer research programs. The reality is very different!
First of all, the amount of cash received by each state is proportional to the number of cigarettes sold! In other words, it behooves states to encourage tobacco cigarettes rather than banning them. A 2018 report showed that states used just 3% of MSA funds on tobacco control. Ridiculously, several states put money back into tobacco! North Carolina used 75% of its MSA funds on tobacco production.
What has this got to do with vaping? Everything! Remember, San Francisco was the first city to ban vaping, and New York tried to become the first state to ban it. California and New York receive the most MSA funding. The Golden State received $876 million in 2018, for example, while New York got a paltry $650 million. With guaranteed annual payments to look forward to, state governments began selling bonds to earn even more money.
As you saw from the CAGR rates of both the vaping and tobacco industries, one is rising quickly, while the other is falling. Remember, vaping is NOT part of the MSA. Therefore, if the industry continues to grow at the expense of tobacco, states lose money. It is easy for state governments to view the vaping market as something that is costing them cash. In 2016, New York received $1.4 billion in MSA cash; a figure that you saw was more than halved within two years.
You may have heard of Truth Initiative. It is the most prominent non-profit public health organization in America devoted to eliminating tobacco use. However, there is a startling lack of anti-tobacco literature. There is more anti-vaping material! Why? Perhaps because MSA money funds it.
Final Thoughts on Banning Vaping Products
We are not suggesting that vaping is safe. The spike in deaths and illnesses in recent times is incredibly concerning. However, the evidence to date illustrates that victims of the epidemic almost entirely used black market items. There is no telling what is in these products, and investigators are thus far finding it hard to determine a link.
Let’s not pretend that the aggressive anti-vaping actions taken by state and the federal government are for the good of public health, however. If these entities cared about us, they would have strict policies against tobacco cigarettes, opioids, guns, and yes, even alcohol! The vast majority of us consume harmful foods and drinks each day and inhale polluted air.
The REAL reason is, as always, money. States are feeling the pinch as the rise of vaping negatively impacts the tobacco industry. According to The Atlantic, the U.S. adult smoking rate of 14% is the lowest ever. While vaping is not the sole reason, its existence is troublesome to Big Tobacco.
State governments can’t stand to lose their sweet MSA cash. THIS is the primary reason for the swift anti-vaping action, and nothing else. It is not good to see teenagers vape, and we would rather the habit remained with adults. Alas, teens also drink alcohol, use weed, smoke tobacco cigarettes, and occasionally dabble in hard drugs.
Even if you were unaware of the MSA, the fact that states are eager to ban flavored vape juice but not tobacco flavors should set off alarm bells. Sadly, the propaganda has taken hold already. A poll conducted by the Kaiser Health Foundation found that 49% of respondents wanted a complete ban on ALL e-cigarettes. Back in 2011, a Gallup poll found that just 19% of Americans wanted a ban on cigarette smoking!
If we get a vaping ban, it will increase cigarette sales and smuggling. It would also do nothing to quell this particular crisis since black market goods are responsible for most of the damage. With so much money at stake, don’t expect our lawmakers to do the right thing.