On Wednesday, Trump’s “flavor ban” went into effect. Essentially, it bans the sale of fruit- and mint-flavored e-cigarettes that come in pre-filled cartridges. It’s one baby step in the right direction but a far cry from the total ban he originally threatened last year, when he claimed a spate of vaping-related hospitalizations and deaths were being wrongly attributed to legitimate products.
Perhaps Trump finally read the findings of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigation and the end of its advisory. Or maybe he realized that in a close election, vapers could hold important sway. Data shows clueless suburban moms concerned about vaping “don’t have the same voter intensity on this as [nicotine-addicted] adult vapers do,” according to Axios.
The intent of Trump’s flavor ban is to keep adolescents off of vaping products to placate action groups that insists “flavors hook kids.” This flavors argument demonstrates stupidity on an “Idiocracy” level. People who buy this sort of nonsense should be ashamed of their own gullibility. People who spew this garbage should be viewed with suspicion as possible industry insiders operating as moles to misdirect discussions away from the real issue: obscenely high nicotine levels in pre-filled e-cigs.
Flavors don’t hook kids. Nicotine hooks kids. If it was just about candy flavors, kids could far more easily and cheaply go buy a candy bar. Kids don’t use vape for the flavors. They use it for the head rush.
I suspect that the “flavors hook kids” campaign is a misdirection operation by Big Tobacco to steer the focus away from the horrifically high levels of nicotine and chemicals in their new “nicotine salts” liquids. In a recent documentary series, the manufacturer of Juul bragged about how innovative this new process in the manufacture of vape liquid that delivers the equivalent nicotine of an entire cigarette (approx. 1 mg) in just one puff of their pre-filled e-cig [see S-01:E-02 of “Broken: Big Vape”].
Lies About Limbaugh
Without much fanfare on Monday, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, 69, announced on his radio show that he was diagnosed last month with Stage 4 lung cancer and will be undergoing treatment. During Trump’s State of Union address (SOTU) on Tuesday, Limbaugh was in attendance, and the president announced his illness, thanked him for public service and had Melania bestow upon him the U.S. Medal of Freedom.
Now, I know most — if not all — readers here at Winter Watch probably couldn’t care less if Limbaugh dropped dead tomorrow. The point I’m trying to make here isn’t about Limbaugh. It’s about how the media treated his story.
The following day after the SOTU, the mainstream media went ape shit. Some articles excoriated Limbaugh for being a racist. Others focused on his cancer as a sign of the dangers of vaping, noting that Rush announced he had switched to electronic cigs in 2010.
The truth of the matter is that he only vaped briefly. He has been a long-time, avid cigar smoker.
Here’s a transcript of his discussion on the topic in September, when the black-market vaping crisis was newly emerging and being wrongly attributed to legitimate products:
The news stories say people are being misled about what vaping is and there are all kinds of ingredients in it that are worse than cigarettes that can be killing you, and I think all of that is a stretch.
Now, I haven’t done this [vaping] in years, so I must be honest up front. I don’t know what the current status of the companies and the business, the stuff they’re manufacturing is. My experience with this, as usual, you know, I was cutting edge. I was vaping before anybody knew it existed. I gave up vaping before most people knew it existed. …
The reason I gave it up is because you never know how much nicotine is in these things, and I guarantee you you’re gonna vape more than you’ll smoke cigarettes. I don’t care how many cigarettes you smoke. Because there’s no carcinogens in it. It’s just water vapor, but you get the nicotine delivery. If you’re addicted to it, you get it.
The problem is blood pressure. I would go to the doctor, standard, ordinary, everyday blood pressure, I never had high blood pressure. Blood pressure would be higher than ever, doc said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I don’t know. Nothing different.” The fact I was vaping never occurred to me. And then one of the people with me at one of those occasions that I was at the doctor, “Well, wait a minute, you’re smoking those e-cigarettes.” I said, “That’s right!”
And the doctor said, “Well, that’s it. All that nicotine in there is causing your blood pressure to spike.” I said, “Oh, I had no idea nicotine did that.” “Oh, hell, yes. It’s not just that your blood vessels contract because of the carcinogens in the tobacco that cause all this cardiovascular. Nicotine can have a drastic effect, in intense quantities, in very high quantities.”
And one of the things about nicotine, people that make the e-cigarettes pack it in there because that’s what keeps you buying it. It’s what keeps you coming back. Now, when I was in the midst of this, Big Tobacco was in panic over this. It was a way to get nicotine without having to smoke cigarettes, without having to get carcinogens delivered into your system.
So Big Tobacco immediately began working on state legislatures to get them outlawed because they’re dangerous, they pose great risks that people aren’t aware of. Capitalism. There was a gigantic competitor just getting started. And then at one point Big Tobacco started buying up various e-cigarette manufacturers. There’s a whole bunch of manufacturers, whole bunch of brand names. One of the biggest names out there is Juul, J-u-u-l. They’re being sued left and right. …
If you could find a way to use these things moderately, they would be probably a good way to quit smoking tobacco if you inhale cigarettes.
Rush’s instincts are correct. There has been an evolution in both vaping devices and vaping liquid during the last 10 years alone. Understanding the differences in devices and liquids is essential to creating sound, effective regulation, and understanding is critical in terms of helping kids who are currently vaping to get off of the juice.
If you’re an experienced and informed vaper, you probably don’t need to read any further. If you’re not, please continue — especially if you’re a smoker considering a switch.
Listening to lawmakers, parents, teachers and others who don’t know a damn thing about vaping babble incoherently about “what we need to do” about e-cigarettes has been both infuriating and mind-numbing. And the vape and tobacco industries — just like the aforementioned folks — run a lot of misinformation campaigns and cherry pick their facts and findings. Each take advantage of the reality that the average person doesn’t know a pod from a mod. (Don’t worry. We’re not going to blow your pipes with a bunch of vape lingo and useless information.)
Well-meaning folks to special-interest groups repeatedly demonstrate that they either don’t understand (or are trying to hide the fact) that all vape products are not the same. Vaping can be as simple and generic as buying a disposable e-cig, or fairly complex and personalized. It can also be an incredibly effective way to quit smoking cigarettes or a horribly toxic and addictive product that — when bought on the black market — could land you in the hospital, or worse.
We would like Winter Watch readers to be better informed than the average pajama person. Even if vaping isn’t your personal issue or that of someone close to you, there’s a good chance you may be asked to vote on it on it one day. So let’s at least try to address it intelligently. We’re not experts, but what can share some of the basics that we do know in an unbiased manner, which is more than most websites offer.
NOTE: This post is part of a series. The first post was “Fuming About Vaping: A Preface,” which briefly chronicles my own personal experience with smoking and vaping, for whatever it’s worth. The next posts on vaping will cover it from the business side, the political side and conclude with our opinion on use and regulation. But first, we need to differentiate the products.
A comprehensive outline of the history of electronic cigarettes, including links to global research and regulations from inception through 2016, can be viewed here. You can see that massive amounts of research and studies on vaping have taken place all over the world during the last decade. We’ll just cover the key highlights.
The first electronic smoking device was created and patented nearly 100 years ago but never fully developed. Fast forward to the 1980s, and Jed Rose, the inventor of the nicotine patch, documented his experiments with “distilled smoke in his lab at UCLA.
But the first e-cigarette as we know it today wasn’t fully developed until 2003. It was created in China by Hon Lik, a pharmacist with a three-pack-day smoking habit. He had lost his father to lung cancer and wanted to create a safer alternative to cigarettes.
Between 2006 and ’07, e-cigs were introduced across Europe and in the United States. Other countries followed shortly thereafter, as did outright bans that included punitive monetary fines and even prison for those who disobeyed. The attitude was basically “we don’t know what this is, so let’s ban it.”
Over the decade that followed, countless studies performed worldwide came to the same general conclusion: Vaping, though not completely safe, is a far less-harmful alternative to smoking and is the most-effective method known for quitting cigarettes.
In December 2019, the BBC reported that “doctors, public health experts and cancer charities in the UK agree that, based on current evidence, e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes.”
In fact, researchers at universities such as Harvard and government health agencies in many countries, such as in the U.K., concluded that public campaigns should be launched to encourage, or “nudge” as some put it, current smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.
In western countries, government agencies and the burgeoning vape industry spent more than five years debating how define vaping: as a medical product or a tobacco product.
If it was classified as a smoking cessation device, then it would be subject to rules and regulations similar to other medicines. In other words, only sold in pharmacies or by dedicated retailers and highly controlled. The e-cigarette industry didn’t want this, but some countries did it anyway.
Classification as a tobacco product meant it could be sold by any cigarette retailer and subject to similar rules. In other words, simply no sales to minors. The U.S. decided to classify it this way and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was tasked with regulation.
Tobacco designation increased consumer access to e-cigarettes but, in the U.S., it also meant that states could tax it heavily for no other reason than “it’s classified as a tobacco product.” In California, for example, the vape tax is about 65%. Add to that a nearly 10% sales tax, and you’re looking at about a 75% markup on products that were already more expensive than smoking.
The global vaping market is now estimated to be worth $19.3 billion, according to the BBC, up from $6.9 billion just five years ago.
A vaping device is basically just a battery-operated electronic atomizer. A lithium battery warms a liquid that turns into a vapor that the vaper inhales through a mouthpiece. The warming action is initiated either by pressing a button or by simply drawing on the device. When the button is released or one stops drawing on it, the warming action stops.
There are two basic categories of vaping devices: open systems and closed systems. Open systems allow the user to refill the device with the vape liquid (aka vape juice) of their choice that’s sold separately in a bottle. A closed system does not. I recommend open systems, because it allows you to select your own vape liquid and thereby better control the nicotine level.
Here’s an array of the most common devices available today.
The first truly marketable e-cig that Lik created looked like No. 5 in the image above. For many years, this was the standard, and its still popular today. These first-generation “cig-a-likes” is where the term “electronic cigarette” or e-cig originated. They’re commonly found wherever cigarettes are sold and are used as an introductory vaping device for smokers.
Today, they may look like cigarettes or some close variation (No. 6). They’re usually closed systems, meaning the manufacturer has pre-filled a disposable cartridge (or disposable e-cig) with vape liquid that has a high nicotine level. Cartridges are usually sold in about four to six flavors, including tobacco, menthol and fruits, most commonly berry flavors. Most products state that one cartridge or disposable e-cig is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.
The third- and fourth-generation devices that have emerged over the last several years are also shown above — specifically, Nos. 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 and 11. These are open-system vaping devices that allow users more options to choose from when it comes to liquid flavors, nicotine levels and chemical composition. Nearly all of these types of open systems can only be found in smoke/head shops, and it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable clerk before purchasing.
Looking at the array of devices, one can see why Juul (No. 4) is most popular among teenagers. In addition to the convenience of it being pre-filled, it looks like a USB thumb drive, and its diminutive size makes it easy to hide.
Regardless of size or shape, the systems are all fundamentally the same. The devices provide an ingenious alternative to smoking. The problem, mainly, is with what’s being put into them, which will be the subject of the next post on vaping.