It Has Nothing to do with Health or Your Children
Everywhere you look, headlines about vaping and vapor products have dominated the news. A quick Google search for “Vaping” pulls up article after article detailing how dangerous the technology is and paints a dooming picture of an industry created by Big Tobacco using a new technology to re-addict the members of the United States. On TV, discussions with health experts (many who haven’t spent one minute researching the technology) preaching the harms of strawberry flavored steam and warning the parents of America that an epidemic is sweeping the nation. The news about vaping got so bad, according to a recent Reuters poll more Americans today believe vaping is more harmful than traditional cigarettes.
Ultimately, what this has done is dissuade current smokers from ever making the switch and scare many current ex-smokers back to their old vices of combustible tobacco. But it doesn’t stop there, no. In regards to the recent lung injuries — which were solely the result of illegal THC/CBD vapor products— many marijuana users were duped into believing the problem lies with nicotine products. Thus, may inflict many more with these same injuries as they continue to use dangerous products they perceive as safe.
There’s more. An entire industry has had the book thrown at them. Multiple states enacting unlawful “Executive Actions”, immediately banning the sale of flavored nicotine vapes, has closed many businesses. These businesses aren’t run by Big Tobacco executives. These are very small mom-&-pop shops, usually run by a small family with only a couple employees, who only are trying to make a living helping adult smokers gain another chance at life. Instead of praising and embracing these workers, their own governments tarred & feathered them, leaving many without work, and in debt. This doesn’t account for the huge hits on other secondary industries, like the small flavoring companies or bottling companies, which may have not prepared to take sudden big losses.
So what’s all of this for? The layman might believe these officials are enacting these policies based on health. Those following this story knows this couldn’t be further from the truth. Why? Well, because cigarettes — which kill nearly 500,000 Americans annually — remain largely ignored and untouched. This image displays this sentiment perfectly.
The War on Vapor
I previously wrote an article talking about how the war on vapor was just getting started. In that article, I denied to explain the Master Settlement Agreement. Here, I’ll do my best to make a summary because it plays a bigger role than ever. The MSA was an accord reached between almost all the states and Big Tobacco settling the Medicaid lawsuits against these tobacco companies. The biggest civil litigation settlement in US history. Upon settling, provisions were put in place to prohibit BT from doing certain things, with one provision making it so Big Tobacco had to pay an annual payment — reaching a minimum of $206 billion over the first 25 years — to each state to compensate for some of the medical costs associated with smoking-related illnesses and fund anti-smoking education campaigns. What this also did was protect BT from further lawsuits and keep Americans smoking. Below you can see the amount of money each state received from MSA payments over the years
The total of each state’s payments in 2019 was $6.1 billion dollars. As you can see in the graph, only a small sliver of that money ever went to the programs it was designed to create. Shocking, I know. Now the problem is that tobacco smoking is the lowest it’s been historically. While this might not sound like a problem to you and I, it puts these states in a tough position. Many of these states have taken out bonds against the MSA, issuing payments up-front rather than waiting for their payments. As we can see from 2018 to 2019, MSA payments received were noticeably less. The difference is hoped to be made up from taxes placed on tobacco. Well, with historically low numbers this may lead to unbalanced budget for the states, while also placing debt upon them. Let’s take a look at this ProPublica article detailing how Tobacco bonds can be dangerous for the states
In the article, the states outlined in red have received the most money from MSA just in 2014. New York tops the list at $828.8 million with California following up at $726.6 million. So you’re reading this all correctly. American states profit from smoking. There’s no other way to put it.
Collusion and Corruption
Vaping now comes into play. With the rise of vaping, we saw an increase in the rate of smoking decline. In fact, the rates mirrored eachother, according to the British Medical Journal.This only exacerbates the states tobacco bond and budgetary issues. Millions of smokers, in the span of only a few years, completely left the tobacco ecosystem. Some states would then place taxes on vapor products — like here in PA where a tax of 40% is added — to make up for this lost revenue. Not only this, but a new bill was recently proposed by the House Ways & Means Committee to tax vapor in parity with cigarettes (which is simply not the case when you look at the numbers).
But this may not be enough for some states. As we all know, California and New York are prime examples of states who are in terrible fiscal health, and have completely failed at placing adequate budgets. This leads them to enact some outrageous policies on their people, to try and regain any sort of financial footing. This includes aiming to ban the sale of vaping.
New York — Gov Cuomo aimed to enact a full on flavor ban, using “executive action” 2nd in total MSA Payments received and in 2019.
California — Many Municipalities are enacting full flavor bans.1st in total MSA payments received and in 2019.
Ohio — Governor call for flavor ban. 3rd in MSA payments for 2019, 5th in MSA payments total.
Michigan — First Governor to (try) to ban the sale of flavored vapor products. 4th in MSA payments for 2019, 7th in MSA payments total.
Massachusetts — Full vaping ban. 7th in MSA payments in 2019, 8th in MSA payments total
New Jersey — Governor call of flavor ban and “vaping task force”. 5th in MSA payments for 2019, 9th in MSA payments total.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the states who receive the most in MSA payments and gain the most from increased tobacco revenues, are the first & loudest anti-vape advocates. This is classic corruption, of course. Using deception & lies to justify policies that benefit themselves and (in this case their Big Tobacco) friends. This isn’t even accounting for the decline of use in products like Nicoderm or Nicotine Gum — which are solely manufactured by Big Pharma.
But the corruption doesn’t stop there. Vaping isn’t going anywhere. It’s a very successful technology being embraced by countries like the UK, with only little resources being needed to create them, combined with a less offensive odor and presence. Because they are simply a better way to consume nicotine, Big Tobacco must adapt and embrace the industry. And they have. Juul is now run by Altria. Philip Morris’ IQOS device is set to take over the US markets. Reynolds American Tobacco has filed for PMTA review of their Vuse product. And even anti-tobacco zealot Michael Bloomberg, who has spent $160 million lobbying for the destruction of the vaping industry, has invested in a vapor product called Hale. Why would they enter the vaping industry now, if it’s being so heavily attacked? Well, it’s because they will be the only players left if these flavor bans are enacted.
The Fight For Flavor
You see, there are two types of vaping industries. There is open-vapor, the industry I reside in, which heavily relies on interesting blends of flavorings and smaller amounts of nicotine to keep vapers vaping, and not smoking. Closed vapor relies on a highly efficient and high milligram nicotine salt blend, that produces very little to no flavor. Not only this, but open-vapor devices require a bit more know-how and more maintenance than the easy to use Juul or IQOS. This means some type of education is needed, which is usually provided by the shops or friends & family members who are helping those to quit smoking.
Therefore, open-vapor is mainly sold in vape shops where users can come in, choose a flavor they enjoy, be educated by the shop employee and then go off and live a healthier life. Closed-vapor products are sold anywhere; convenience stores, gas stations, etc. They require no education to use, and often used as “alternatives” to smoking rather than harm reduction products (even though, I will admit, are in fact harm reduction products).
So one industry solely relies on the flavors of the products, the other relies on the high amount of highly efficient nicotine and ease of use. Yet, when we hear about these products from anti-vapor zealots, they often site flavors as the big issue. “Flavored vaping products are addicting a new generation of teens” is a phrase I see a lot. This is simply because it will eliminate any competition against closed-system devices.
Removing flavors effectively destroys the open-vapor system industry. Fruits, sweet flavors, and desserts, remain the most popular option for adult smokers, by a large, large margin. The entire industry is built around enjoying your favorite flavor. The nicotine is more a catalyst to remove you from the nicotine in smoking. Step down, or the weening process, is vital to the success of tobacco cessation with vapor products. Something that doesn’t exist in current closed-system devices. Should flavors be removed, you no longer need devices that emphasize the flavor of the vape, like “mods” or “dripping atomizers” which are created by small craft vaping enthusiasts. You no longer need the education from the vape shop employee. You no longer need open-vapor. You no longer need the thousands of businesses, and hundreds of thousands of employees that created and built this industry.
Instead, you can just use Big Tobacco owned closed-system devices, like Juul, IQOS, and Vuse, which all now only sell tobacco flavors. It’s not a coincidence Juul has just halted the sale of their fruit flavors, and have never once lobbied to keep flavors on the market.
Let’s put it all together now
States are reliant on MSA payments and Tobacco bonds to maintain their budgets. Vaping comes along and threatens that with a shockingly effective new technology. States can’t just outright ban an industry, but then are given two gifts. That is the “youth vaping epidemic” started by Big Tobacco company Juul, as well as the lung injury fiasco caused by a completely different product — illegal THC/CBD vape carts. They use these scandals to poison the well, and push executive actions to start the banning process. The FDA in the meantime drafts up regulations that will completely remove flavors from vapor devices, pushing any vaper left to use Big Tobacco made vapor products, which the government will also tax heavily, reviving the lost Tobacco revenue they relied on. They continue to get their big MSA checks, they continue to rake in massive amounts of tax from now both vapor products & cigarettes, and they continue to increase Big Pharma’s profits (many of which they are heavily invested in) because more and more will continue to get tobacco related illnesses. This is what the open-vapor community has screaming about. Clear, disgusting, unfettered, unopposed corruption.
The Vapor Vote
Vaping and the open-vapor industry pose a real threat to the status quo. An industry that was created by consumers — ex-smokers — run mainly by very small mom & pop establishments who only aim to rid their communities of the scourge that is smoking, are being attacked by the biggest industries in the world. But what these officials hadn’t realized is that the vaping community is extremely passionate. A coordinated effort online has mobilized a mainly conservative group (but widely diverse), to push back against Trump’s decision to go after vapor. They were so successful in their voices, it eventually caught the attention of the President where he thought to walk back some of his statements.
While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL! Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2019
This caught the attention of other conservatives, like Stephen Crowder, to voice their opposition, which helped spread this corruption to non-vapers. The voices of the vaping community got so big, studies funded by anti-vape zealots even tried to dehumanize and discredit them, claiming they were just bots on twitter!
By using hashtags like #WeVapeWeVote, #MSABloodMoney — and in response to that horrid study — #NotABot, the community has finally started getting the attention of pollsters and the mainstream media. This article by Vice (who has been historically bad on vaping), was written with an understanding of the power the vape vote has.
These vapers, which hits nearly 10 million in the US alone, are certainly enough to swing a vote. In a race where the country is divided nearly 50/50, every vote counts. The vaping community are pushing presidential hopefuls to take a positive stance on vaping so they can throw their support towards them. Many vapers contacting progressives like Bernie Sanders, or Andrew Yang, and also still holding out hope Trump sees their pleas and changes his tune.
As more and more are mobilized to take action, more of the truth is being revealed. More of the injustices are being exposed. But unfortunately, more small businesses are closing, and more vapers who are losing their option to vape, are heading back to smoking. The fight against vapor is in full effect. And with nearly half a million dying annually in the US from preventable smoking related illnesses, lives are certainly on the line.