Tag Archives: e-cigs

Flavoured vaping fluid to be banned

An 18-year-old teen sickened by e-cigs

OK, by now, you’ve heard the huge news  … shockingly yesterday, the Trump Administration has proposed banning flavoured e-cigarette fluids in light of e-cig illnesses that have struck hundreds of people and killed 6 people so far.

Weirdly enough, I wasn’t completely surprised by it — the tide has been turning against e-cigarettes for months now — but I was shocked at how quickly the decision came and with how little warning there was that something was afoot.

I can’t really add a lot to the reams of articles I’ve been reading the past couple of days about this other than to add my thoughts about this move.

First of all, I would not be remotely shocked at all if Trump and his administration completely reverses their decision. It wouldn’t be the first time. This is a virulently pro-business and anti-regulation administration … I mean they’ve all but completely gutted EPA rules and regulations over the past three years.

And this is a very anti-business move. The e-cig industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and Trump has effectively gutted it overnight. AND keep in mind, the e-cig industry IS the tobacco industry. Roughly 90 percent of the e-cig market is controlled by Big Tobacco (RJ Reynolds, Altria and British American Tobacco).

I imagine Big Tobacco either won’t be happy with this move or they’re willing to sacrifice the e-cig industry in the name of public relations, thinking all those nicotine-addicted e-cig users will simply go back to cigarettes.

Secondly, I have mixed feelings about this. From talking to myriad e-cig users, I respect that they have genuinely helped millions of people quit smoking. Yeah, people are getting sick on e-cig fluids, but this appears to be stuff people are buying on the street and most of the time, it appears to be marijuana vaping. This isn’t Juul or Blu behind this.

So, is this just going to drive adult vapers back to cigarettes? Will there just be unflavoured vaping fluids now? Is the flavouring part of the appeal of vaping for grown-ups? We’ll see.

Yes, teen vaping is a HUGE issue, I’ve been railing about it for two or three years now. The flavourings are part of the issue. It pisses me off to no end to see bubble gum flavoured e-cig products with nicotine. Or cookie dough flavour. Or Rice Krispie Treat flavour. My reaction when I see some of the flavours out there is: “You have got to be shitting me.” The industry is CLEARLY trying to get kids addicted.

So, in that sense, I do agree something has to be done. It’s well past time. It’s too bad more can’t be done to keep these products strictly in the hands of adults.

Thirdly, I’ve seen a number of people make a very valid point about “Six people die from vaping, Trump takes action. Thousands killed by guns … nothing.”

Yeah, fair enough, I can’t really argue with it, though I would say it’s not necessarily an “either or” situation. You can care about both vaping and guns.

Again, I’m pretty cynical that Trump is actually going to follow through with this. I just get the sense that Big Tobacco lobbyists are working round the clock to get this either reversed or watered down.

 

 

 

The rise and possibly fall of Juul? — Juul under investigation

Ro, ro, Shaggy.

Wow, this really interesting. This story blew me away. Apparently, some state and federal agencies and some state attorneys general looking into the company’s marketing practices. Could this be the fall of mighty Juul?

The attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Illinois (and four other states) are investigating just how Juul became so popular with teens, literally within months of Juuls hitting the market.

I know one thing Juul did was very smartly (in an evil way) use Instagram and other social media to market Juul to mostly young people … who are on Instagram. I also know they totally came out of NOWHERE to completely dominate the e-cig market (they control about 75 percent of the market).

From a Los Angeles Times article:

A senior Illinois law enforcement official described to the Associated Press a wide-ranging inquiry being conducted by the office of Illinois Atty. Gen. Kwame Raoul that is centered on whether Juul violated state consumer fraud laws and other statutes by designing and marketing its products to appeal to underage teens. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Marrisa Geller, a spokeswoman for District of Columbia Atty. Gen. Karl Racine, confirmed in an emailed statement that an investigation of Juul is underway. She said Racine is concerned about “the dramatic increase in the use of vaping products by district youth” as well as the policies and practices employed by e-cigarette manufacturers to prevent minors from using their products.

The attorneys general in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts have announced investigations of Juul related to concerns over underage use of its products. North Carolina’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Juul in May, asking a court to limit the company’s sales and marketing in the state.

I’m wondering here just how much shit Juul is actually in, but it sounds like possibly a lot. It sounds like there could be RICO statutes involved. This trouble isn’t going  to go away anytime soon and it certainly begs the question of whether this might be the beginning of the end for the company.

Interestingly, Juul actually donated $3,000 to the election campaign of the attorney general of Illinois, but he refused it on ethical grounds. Good for him.

Juul also has a bottomless pit of financing to fight the attorneys general. Remember, they are partly owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris and Marlboro cigarettes.

I’ll definitely be keeping on eye on this story to see if anything comes of it.

UPDATE: Man dies from vaping illness

It appears at least one person has died in the surge of vaping-related illnesses, mostly in the Midwest.

An Illinois man who came down with a sudden respiratory illness after vaping died. All told, at least 193 lung illnesses have been identified as being related to vaping. There are dozens more cases under investigation that might be tied to this outbreak.

It appears that there was a contaminated or purposely poisoned batch of vaping fluid. And it appears it was being sold on the streets. Reportedly, it’s both nicotine and marijuana involved, though all the stories I’ve read seem to be hinting that this is mostly happening with THC vaping fluid.

From an NBC News story:

In Wisconsin, a 26-year-old man started to feel ill and was hospitalized after taking a couple of hits from a new vape cartridge. Dylan Nelson of Burlington, Wisconsin, eventually had to be put into a medically induced coma after his lungs started filling with liquid.

He has since been released and is recovering.

His brother, Patrick DeGrave, said that Nelson purchased the cartridge off the street and not from a reputable shop.

“You don’t know if you’re buying something from a middleman that picked it up from a dispensary or if you’re buying it from somebody who has tampered with it and made their own mixture,” he said. “You literally don’t know what you’re inhaling into your body.”

FDA releases new rules on e-cigarettes, banning fruity flavours

Even with FDA chief Scott Gottlieb stepping down, the agency went ahead this week with its new rules regulating the sales of e-cig products — the big change being the banishment of most fruity flavours.

From now on, only menthol-flavoured cigarettes will be allowed.

Sales of e-cig products will also be restricted to “adult areas” in stores. I have no idea, and I think few people do, how exactly this would work. It sounds like it could literally be a storage closet in the back with a curtain. This was a huge step back from the  proposal put forward by Gottlieb a few months ago. He originally proposed that e-cig sales would be restricted solely to tobacco shops, not convenience stores. I liked that idea, because there’s about 1/10th as many tobacco shops as convenience stores.

But, the convenience store industry balked at that and now we have this hybrid policy that no one knows how is going to work.

Unfortunately, with Gottlieb stepping down and a very pro-industry Trump administration in power at the moment, I remain cynical whether the FDA will actually go through with these regulations. Don’t be shocked if this all gets mysteriously dropped in the next few weeks. Gottlieb was a huge advocate (in the Trump administration, weird, huh) against teen smoking and teen vaping. Teen vaping has in particular skyrocketed the past five years, as the largely unregulated vaping industry was absolutely brazen about using  friuity, kiddie flavours like bubble gum and Sprite and marketing their products to teens very much like the tobacco industry did 30 and 40 years ago.

More mixed bags for e-cigs … study suggests e-cigs increase risk of stroke

It’s been such a mixed week for e-cigs, with one study showing e-cigs are more successful than nicotine patches and gum for helping people quit, yet the American Lung Association ripping the FDA as a “failure” for doing nothing to stem the tide of teen vaping.

Well, this week another study came out that e-cigarettes, while perhaps safer than cigarettes, are still not completely harmless.

In what is admittadly a pretty limited study, a new survey by the American Stroke Association shows that e-cig use is associated with a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks.

From an NPR story:

“There’s a certain notion that e-cigarettes are harmless,” says Dr. Paul Ndunda, the study’s author and an assistant professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas in Wichita. “But this study and previous other studies show that while they’re less harmful than normal cigarettes, their use still comes with risks.”

This study relied on a behavioral factor survey from the CDC and looked at 66,000 e-cig users. It found a 71 percent higher risk of stroke, 59 percent higher risk of heart attack and 40 percent higher risk of heart disease.

(OK, I’m going to be honest here … while I’m sure these figures are accurate, my first question is how many of these e-cig users are smokers and former smokers … the increased risk of stroke and heart disease could be from the smoking more than the e-cigs.)

The study does get into this to a degree, to be fair.

From NPR:

Ndunda found e-cigarette users are twice as likely to also smoke conventional cigarettes, compared with people who don’t use e-cigarettes.

To see the health effects of e-cigarette use alone, Ndunda and his colleague Dr. Tabitha Muutu compared people who had only used e-cigarettes — not conventional cigarettes — to nonsmokers.

“Even in that group there was a 29 percent higher risk of stroke and a 25 percent higher risk of heart attack,” Ndunda says. Taken together, these two analyses point to an additive effect of e-cigarette and conventional cigarette use.

So, Ndunda admits in the aritlce that the study has its limitations because there’s so many factors at play here — e-cigs, mixing e-cigs and cigarettes, and my point, the pre-existing damage experienced by former smokers from their decades of cigarette use.

Anyway, this survey strongly suggests it’s probably a really, really bad idea to mix e-cigs and cigarettes together. That if you’re going to use e-cigs, you really have to quit cigarettes to actually have any health benefit.

And now for the other side of the coin … Harsh Lung Association report says FDA efforts to stop teen vaping a complete “failure”

In what NBC News is calling a “scathing” report, the American Lung Association rips the Food and Drug Administration for failing to take any action to stem the epidemic of teen vaping.

One of the proposals from the Lung Association is to raise the legal age of buying e-cig products to 21 and getting rid of fruity e-cig flavourings.

From the NBC News story:

“This year’s report finds a disturbing failure of the federal government and states to take action to prevent and reduce tobacco use in 2018, placing the health and lives of Americans at risk, including our youth,” the American Lung Association’s national president and CEO, Harold P. Wimmer, said in a statement.

Health

“The FDA’s failure to act has emboldened the tobacco industry, which has become increasingly aggressive in seeking to delay or oppose proven policies,” Wimmer said.

States need to raise their minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy for the American Lung Association, told NBC News.

“As a result of the failure by the federal and state governments to act, the tobacco industry is on a resurgence,” and therefore maneuvering “to addict our kids,” Sward said.

This final point is a really important to remember about the tobacco industry’s ties to e-cigs. The industry absolutely control the e-cig market, especially since Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris, makers of Marlboros) bought a stake in Juuls, the biggest e-cig brand on the market. Big Tobacco already owned Blu E-cigs, MarkTen and Vuse.

The industry sold people the disease — cigarettes. And is now selling people the cure — e-cigs. Pretty ingenious, huh?

So, cigarettes have become socially unacceptable, how is the tobacco industry recovering its costs? A wildly successful e-cig market and a 78 percent increase in teen vaping.

The report also grades states on their efforts toward tobacco control. The Lung Association doesn’t mince words. Most every state gets a failing grade. A handful get As, California gets a B.

The FDA is talking tough about e-cigs lately, but so far hasn’t taken any firm action. One proposal from the agency is to require that e-cigs be sold in areas cordoned off to teens, but no one has any idea how that could work. A proposal to restrict all sales to tobacco shops was dropped as quickly as it was raised.

It may be too little too late for the FDA to stem the epidemic of teen vaping. This epidemic grew and grew for four or five years before the FDA even acknowledged it.

FDA thinking about ban on vaping flavours; Juuls on the radar

Oooh, I will DEFINITELY be keeping my eye on this one. The Food and Drug Administration is apparently mulling the possibility of banning vaping flavours and is reviewing any regulations that are needed for Juuls, as well.

Juuls are a fairly new type of e-cigarette that doesn’t look like an e-cig at all. It looks like a little flash drive that plugs into a laptop computer … and they DO plug into laptop computers in order to recharge.

Anyway, for now the FDA is doing anything, but will be starting an anti-teen vaping initiative in mid-September.

From a USA Today article:

This month, the FDA asked four e-cigarette companies for information about the appeal of their products to youths and said it could take enforcement action against the companies based on what it learns.

In mid-September, the FDA will launch a vaping prevention campaign targeting 10 million youths who vape or are open to trying it, Scott Gottlieb said. It will continue enforcement against retailers that sell to minors.

“We are very concerned that we could be addicting a whole generation of young people,” Gottlieb said. “We only have a narrow window of opportunity to address it.”

Instead of committing to regulate flavor, the FDA solicited more research on flavor’s role. Robin Koval, CEO of the anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative, said there is ample evidence that flavors attract teens.

USA Today interviewed a bunch of young college students who vaped. The interview that really jumped out at me came from Kevin Kee.

From the article:

Kevin Kee, 22, took up vaping to give up smoking when he was starting college but found himself going back to smoking again when he noticed the Juul was “more ingrained in my life than cigarettes ever were.”

“With the Juul, you can vape anywhere, 24/7. I went through pods way quicker – I could go through a pod in one day,” Kee said. “My tolerance was higher, and I didn’t want that kind of life coming out of college.”

Kee said he thinks people who vape to quit smoking are a minority and most people “vape just to vape.” Out of college and working, he’s given up cigarettes and vaping but fears a flavor ban would really hurt others.

“It’s become so ingrained in our culture that banning flavored nicotine would be like the prohibition,” he said.

People vape just to vape, not to quit cigarettes. I’m all for people using ecigs to get off cigarettes. What I’m not all for is kids 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds becoming addicted to nicotine to begin with via ecigs or Juuls.

Gottlieb also said that the FDA is keeping an eye on Juuls and for its alleged marketing to teens.

Also from the USA TODAY article regarding the controversial and relatively new Juuls:

A class-action lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Juul users alleged that the vaping giant used a two-pronged approach to target adult smokers and teens.

One San Diego teen said she was introduced to Juul by eighth-grade classmates. When her device broke last November, she obtained a warranty replacement through Juul’s website even though she was only 14, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges Juul targeted youth and nonsmokers through ads and “social media blitzes” using “alluring imagery.” Adult smokers were wooed with the promise of a lower or equal amount of nicotine compared with a cigarette even though the product is designed to be more potent and addictive than cigarettes, the lawsuit says.

“On a puff-for-puff basis, this was designed to be more powerful than the gold standard – the cigarette,” said Esfand Nafisi, a San Francisco Bay Area attorney representing Juul users. “That potency was either not disclosed or misrepresented continuously from the time of the company’s inception.”

So, the moral of the story goes … teen smoking has been all but  eliminated, but the struggle continues, and likely will always continue as long as nicotine is a legal product and companies are looking to make billions off of it by attracting new users … be it cigarettes, e-cigs or Juuls. I suspect it will be a never-ending battle.

San Francisco bans flavoured tobacco products

Yup, these are e-cigs … they’re not marketed to kids at all

San Francisco voters, by an extremely wide margin, voted during California’s Tuesday election to ban all flavoured tobacco products.

This include sugary cigars, menthol cigarettes and most importantly, sugary- or fruity-flavoured e-cig products. That is a HUGE deal because most e-cig flavours are fruity or sugary.

68 percent voted in favour of the measure. Just 31 percent voted against it.

San Francisco is notoriously one of the most stridently anti-tobacco cities in the country. And get this, RJ Reynolds spent $12 MILLION to try and defeat this measure. Why does RJ Reynolds care so much? In addition to owning  Newport menthols, the No. 1 menthol cigarette (Lorillard originally bought out Vuse and then RJR merged with Lorillard), RJ also owns Vuse e-cigarettes, the No. 1 e-cig company in the U.S. (Somewhere along the line, Vuse must have passed Blu).

Anti-tobacco advocates have been trying to get menthol cigarettes banned for a few years, with little luck, no doubt because they’re a huge part of the overall market and are particularly popular with African-American smokers (My parents always smoked menthols when I was a kid). While menthols get a pass from the Food and Drug Administration, the feds a few years ago did ban candy-flavoured cigarettes because they were clearly being directed by tobacco companies toward teen smokers.

And this is the one of the issues with all these fruity and candy-flavoured e-cigarette flavours out there. It’s well-known that teen vaping is way up; more teens vape today than smoke, which is one of the reasons why teen smoking is way down.

This is a good thing … and it isn’t. Kids are still getting addicted to nicotine, they’re just finding a less obnoxious and cheaper delivery system than cigarettes. I’m fine with smokers using e-cigs to get off of cigarettes. I’m not fine with teenagers getting addicted to nicotine to begin with via e-cigs instead of cigarettes.  And there’s no way you will convince me that c-cig flavours like strawberry shortcake, bubblegum or smurf grape are actually meant for adults.

From a CNN article:

“San Francisco’s youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store. It’s clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens,” the American Lung Association stated.

I love this quote, too from Patrick Reynolds, whose grandfather started RJ Reynolds. He’s now an avid anti-tobacco (and anti-vaping) advocate:

Patrick Reynolds, the executive director of Foundation for Smokefree America, said that R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company that his grandfather started, had spent a lot of money fighting the ban because it’s concerned that if it passes in San Francisco, other cities will follow suit.

The company didn’t respond to messages from CNN.

“Big tobacco sees vaping as their future,” Reynolds, an anti-tobacco advocate said. “They are very afraid this is going to pass and if the voters make an informed decision to side with the health community, it will lead to hopefully a tidal wave of cities doing what SF did because the FDA did nothing. We will start to turn the tide against vaping.”

 

 

FDA to e-cig companies: Stop making your products look like candy

“Candy King” is an actual e-cig product.

The FDA is warning e-cigarette companies in a letter sent out earlier this month to stop making their products look like candy.

This has been one of the big battles against the fledglinge-cig industry — candy-flavoured products. Candy-flavoured products marketed as candy-flavoured products. And most of all, candy-flavoured products that the industry insists are not designed for underaged users.

Some of these products have names like Smurf Sauce, Twirly Sour Patch kids and Nilla Wafers.

Yeah, this is for real, those are e-cig products on the left.

Are you seriously going to try to convince me that any product with the word “Smurf” in it is actually being marketed to adults?

From a Bloomberg article:

The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent 13 letters Tuesday to companies that make and sell the liquids used in e-cigarettes, warning them for using false and misleading labeling and advertising. The nicotine products resemble juice boxes, whip-cream canisters and well-known candy and cookie packages like Sour Patch Kids and Nilla Wafers.

The move follows an FDA sting operation that resulted in 40 warning letters last week to retailers that sold kids Juul e-cigarettes, the latest craze in underage tobacco use.
The FDA has given e-cigarette makers extra time to comply with certain e-cigarette regulations and is attempting to rein in youth use while it learns more about the products. Antismoking advocates have criticized the agency for not moving to ban flavors in tobacco products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said he wants to take a balanced approach to help adults who enjoy the flavors switch from regular cigarettes to vaping.

“Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and we’ll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion,” Gottlieb said in a statement.

The agency plans “a series of escalating actions” as part of a new plan to prevent youth tobacco use, Gottlieb said.

From a Washington Post article:

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a telephone briefing with reporters, said that it would be hard for “any reasonable person” to examine the products and not conclude that “they are deliberately being packaged and marketed in a way that is designed to not only be appealing to kids” but also to confuse them by mimicking items they frequently consume.

So, something is supposed to hit the fan within three weeks. I’ll be keeping track of this.

I hate to say it. I try to avoid partisan politics on this page, but I am not a fan of Donald Trump and his administration, but I have to admit, this Scott Gottlieb *appears* to actually take his job seriously. I say “appears” because I am by nature a cynical person and I will await to see if the rubber meets the road with him, so to speak.

But, Jesus Christ on a cracker, e-cig flavours based on Oreo cookies, “Smurf sauce” and “Cookies & Milk” and you’re actually going to sit there with a straight face and try to convince me these are products designed for adults? C’mon!

 

What the hell is a “Juul”?

This is a “Juul”

Never heard of these things until a couple of weeks ago. I’m still not 100 percent sure what the big deal is about them.

It sounds to be something like Vaal, from the original Star Trek and  reminds of an old SNL skit about some feminine product where the whole point of the skit was “what is it?”

A Juul is apparently a new kind of e-cigarette that looks a hell of a lot like a flash drive for a laptop. And, apparently, in fact, they can be charged by plugging them into a laptop.

Anyway, the New York Times thought it was a big enough deal to do a huge article about them.

Not Vaal, Juul!

From the Times story:

Resembling a flash drive, Juul conveys a sense of industry — you’re Juuling into your MacBook Air while you are cramming for your test on Theodore Dreiser and thinking about trigonometry — and it is so easy to conceal that, as one mother explained to me, she failed to notice that her daughter was vaping in the back seat of the car as she was driving.

It’s basically just the latest “hip” e-cig. And this is one of the issues I have with e-cigs … is they keep trying to pass themselves off as “hip” and the “latest thing.” And kids love stuff that’s “hip” and the “latest thing.”

From the Times story:

The company’s position that Juul is intended strictly for “adult” smokers as its website repeatedly indicates, is belied by the menu of flavors in which the nicotine pods are offered. These include Mango, Cool Mint, Fruit Medley and Creme Brulee. As Anthony Charuvastra, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor at New York University’s Medical Center put it, “Who over 25 is looking for creme brulee as part of a smoking experience?”

Like all modern tech companies that attract tens of millions of dollars in venture capital funding, Juul believes it is doing something globally valuable, acting as “part of the solution to end combustible smoking,’’ as its marketing material proclaims. A “Mission & Values” statement on the company’s website declares that no minor should be in possession of Juul and argues that the company is working to combat underage use. In August, it instituted an age-verification system on its e-commerce site to try and prevent anyone under 21 from buying Juul products.

“James and Adam recognized a groundbreaking opportunity to apply industrial design to the smoking industry, which had not materially evolved in over one hundred years,” the Juul website also declares, indicating how little Silicon Valley can distinguish between what needs to be disrupted and what simply needs to go away.

When asked about Juul’s use by teenagers, the company said in a statement, “We condemn the use of our product by minors. We are fully committed to dramatically reducing the incidence of young people using Juul.”

Yeah, the “we here at Juul are very concerned about teen vaping” sounds pretty lame and vapid (They gave a similar statement to Women’s Health), especially when it sounds EXACTLY like the Tobacco Industry excuses for their products being blatantly marketed to teens for decades. So, colour me seriously unimpressed with the owners of Juul and their milquetoast response about teens using their product.