Before we begin today’s blog we would like to welcome vapers, smokers, and health officials alike. If you’re reading this blog that means you care. Whether your care lies with the vaping community or against it, you cared enough to seek better insight and a new perspective.
Has the vaping industry targeted children?
Since 2016 the FDA and numerous organizations have accused the vape industry of marketing vapor products to children. Have you ever seen a vaping commercial? The only publicly known vapor product commercials to date are for products not owned by anyone in the vapor industry but in fact the tobacco industry. The Blucig is a vapor product owned by Imperial Brands. We cite the commercial, the product, and company here to let readers know that the vaping industry does NOT acknowledge them as a beneficial entity among us. We share different products, different ideologies, and operate on a much more personable scale daily. Many vape shop owners work one on one with each of their customers. Have you ever purchased a tobacco product directly from the CEO of Imperial Brands?
Pre August 8th 2016 the Vapor Industry was growing. The vapor products available to the public were evolving everyday to better suit the needs of smokers. Youtube reviewers like GrimmGreen were guiding people on how to use various vapor products, and which products would be most likely to work for people depending on their individual nicotine needs. The vapor industry took the country by storm. How is it that these brand new products have managed to make previous methods of smoking cessation irrelevant? At this point in time there was no FDA regulation, vaping was not considered a tobacco product. Based on that knowledge, it's important to note that vapor companies were not obligated to restrict any sales based on age. Gorilla Vapes and many vapor companies alike committed to self regulating from the beginning, we can’t speak for other companies but as business owners in a brand new industry we took the initiative to sell our product responsibility on our own accord. We decided that our product was intended for adults of legal smoking age (18+/21+ depending on the state) from the first day of opening our doors.
On August 8th, 2016 the FDA imposed a massive document of deeming regulations for the vapor industry. In order for these regulations to stick they first needed to classify vapor products as tobacco products. After little to no push back from an industry that was infantile with no structure, no lobbyists and minimal capital, the FDA succeeded. Shortly after this time the vapor industry was accused of marketing toward children. The FDA insisted that child appealing labels on e-liquid packaging was the cause of youth vaping. It was at this point the FDA directed all vapor companies to a very specific guideline on the do’s and don'ts when labeling their products. The vapor industry obliged to the guidelines set seemingly overnight. None other but the vape industry itself swiftly demonized E-liquid manufacturers who chose to use any sort of “child appealing” labels. The vapor industry called for a complete blacklist of any e-liquid manufacturer not adhering to the FDA’s guidelines. The blacklisting from within the industry itself is most comparable to what the public today would consider "cancel culture". We saw the angle federal authorities were taking, and the entire industry swiftly “canceled” e-liquid manufacturers that were giving federal authorities ammunition to prohibit vapor products. One by one vapor product business’ discontinued or even threw away e-liquids that were already purchased in an attempt to put an end to the youth marketing accusations. Up until September 3rd, 2019 illegal sales to minors, and labels deemed to be marketed toward children have been the only accounts of the vapor industry targeting children.
On September 3rd 2019 the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer directed the state health department to issue emergency rules to ban the sale of all flavored vaping products. She stated “Right now, companies are getting our kids hooked on nicotine by marketing flavors like apple juice, bubble gum, and candy”. Whitmer continued with “Banning these flavors is a bold step that will keep our kids healthy and safe from the harmful effects of vaping.” - Gretchen Whitmer. Vapor stores market these flavors to their clientele in store, which are of legal smoking age adults. Our industry is not taking out Superbowl advertisements and not going to schools around the country in an attempt to create a new clientele. There seems to be a common discussion point whenever there are conversations of vapor products being marketed toward teens and children, and it appears the common denominator is not any legitimate vape shop, but JUUL Labs.
JUUL Labs Inc.
Who is JUUL Labs? JUUL Labs is a spin off of the e-cigarette company Pax Labs. Once world renowned for its innovative technology for vaporizing dry herb, Pax Labs set its sights into the tobacco harm reduction industry (vapor) forming JUUL Labs Inc. JUUL Labs quickly became the most popular e-cigarette on the market for its ease of access (sold at most convenience stores), portability, ability to be easily concealed, and its effectiveness to curb combustible tobacco cravings. Initially the vapor industry welcomed JUUL Labs into the market with seemingly open arms. With the widespread use of the device, vapor advocacy groups theorized that JUUL labs would be able to provide the capital needed to ensure protection against unfair federal regulations against the vapor industry. It wasn’t until JUUL Labs applied for a patent pertaining to the delivery method of nicotine salts that the vapor industry raised an eyebrow, and started to beg to question whether or not JUUL Labs was a trojan horse.
What are Nicotine Salts?
Nicotine salts are a type of nicotine that forms naturally in the leaves of tobacco plants. They are considered to be a more stable form of nicotine vs traditional freebase nicotine. For much more detailed in depth information on nicotine salts please click here. Nicotine salts essentially allow a vapor product consumer to vape much higher concentrations of nicotine by using benzoic acid to make higher milligrams of nicotine much smoother in turn mimicking the satisfaction of a traditional cigarette. Thousands of vape product users demanded that this new delivery method of nicotine be made available in a fashion that didn’t subject them to the limited flavors and high nicotine levels that JUUL Labs provided. There is little to no clarification on what exactly JUUL Labs has patented pertaining to Nicotine Salts but even in lieu of the patent, the vapor industry gave the consumers what they were asking for. Nearly every established e-liquid manufacturer on the market today has released their original recipe e-liquids in the form of nicotine salts. Countless hardware manufacturers have created pod system devices to mimic the delivery method of the JUUL. Almost instantly these devices and flavors were made available to vaping community, which opened up the gate for far better options than the device known as the JUUL.
In April 2018 the FDA requested that JUUL Labs turn over documents in an effort to
"better understand the reportedly high rates of youth use and the particular youth appeal of these products." "We don't yet fully understand why these products are so popular among youth," former FDA commissioner Dr. Gottlieb said adding, "These documents may help us get there." JUUL expressed its concern in both minors and non-smokers, using their product. They responded in a statement that promised spending nearly $30 million in a campaign to prevent underage use. At this point JUUL has delivered an industry innovator in the use of nicotine salts, and showed the industry that it’s prepared to fully comply with the FDA on behalf of itself, and seemingly, the greater good of the vapor industry as a whole. Trust has been regained.
In late September 2018 the FDA made an unannounced inspection at JUUL labs per the FDA disclosure that subjects business owners within the vapor industry to random 'compliance' checks at least once per year. There are currently no guidelines provided by the FDA or any other agency for these inspections. The FDA announced that the inspection yielded thousands of documents pertaining to the marketing practices of JUUL Labs. The FDA also timidly announced that they discovered shares of some of the worlds largest tobacco manufacturers Altria, Phillip Morris International, and British American Tobacco within JUUL Labs. Ultimately, on December 19th, 2018 Altria announced a deal with JUUL Labs giving them a 35% stake in JUUL Labs. We discontinued the sales of JUUL devices, and pods for a short time until our phones wouldn’t stop ringing. These phone calls to our stores were to the tune of Adult JUUL users wanting to purchase JUUL products from our family owned establishments rather than convenience type stores. It is for the satisfaction and dedication to our loyal customers that Gorilla Vapes still sells JUUL products to this day. The integrity of everything the vapor industry stands for was infringed upon when JUUL Labs sold out to big tobacco.
As of November 18th, 2018 just shy of one month before the deal with Altria JUUL Labs restricted three of their flavors (mango, fruit medley, and creme brulee) to their online website only which is heavily fortified with age verification technology. JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns recently announced that his company fully supports a federal reset on flavor restrictions.
Master Settlement Agreement
According to the National Association of Attorneys General the Master Settlement Agreement was entered in 1998, originally between the four largest tobacco manufacturers and 46 US States. The settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for the recovery of their tobacco related health care costs. “In exchange, the companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices, as well as to pay in perpetuity, various annual payments to the States to compensate them for some of the medical costs of caring for persons with smoking-related illnesses. The money also funds a new anti-smoking advocacy group, called the Truth Initiative, which is responsible for such campaigns as Truth. The settlement also dissolved the tobacco industry groups Tobacco Institute, the Center for Indoor Air Research, and the Council for Tobacco Research. In the MSA, the original participating manufacturers (OPM) agreed to pay a minimum of $206 billion over the first 25 years of the agreement.”
The MSA agreement seems fair enough. In essence, States are saying, “if you want to sell your products here you’re going to have to pay us for anti-smoking campaigns and any tobacco related illnesses that the state pays for”. This is brilliant news for big tobacco who makes an estimated $35 billion annually. As a business owner, and a free American citizen this sounds like a compromise only the greatest country in the world would be able to achieve. That is until we found out that States will collect $27.5 billion from the MSA in fiscal year 2018, but will spend less than 3 percent of it on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The money the States receive is supposed to be decreasing youth smoking and promote public health, but it does not contain any provisions that require these States to allocate settlement revenues into tobacco prevention and cessation. No State currently funds tobacco prevention at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 29 States and the District of Columbia spend less than 20 percent of the CDC recommendation. See Here.
The Master Settlement Agreement is essentially a deal between tobacco companies and 46 States allowing tobacco companies to operate as they please so long as the participating receive their fair share of revenue. When people ask questions like “why are cigarettes still sold when they’re proven to kill people?” someone without any knowledge of the Master Settlement Agreement would be hard pressed to provide an answer. The 46 States within the Master Settlement Agreement rely on this revenue, and allocate it as they see fit. The remaining States settled with big tobacco individually. Big tobacco is stuck with this bill for as long as they want to continue to sell their products. Vaping continues to kill the profits of big tobacco with Altria alone declining by as much as 27%. Declining sales of big tobacco coupled with irresponsible spending of MSA funds on part of the United States seem to be the direct cause of President Donald Trump's sudden interest in banning flavored vapor products.
Social Media & Parenting
Gorilla Vapes agrees to a certain degree that youth use of e-cigarettes is cause for concern. But shouldnot be cause for the products we sell to be banned. The public seems to not quite understand why the vapor industry is up in arms right now, so to break this down as simply as possible we ask one question: Will you be able to pay your bills if 89% of your income was taken away? The media, paid politicians , uninformed doctors, and now the President of the United States are moving to decimate an entire industry under the guise of our industry irresponsibly marketing our adult products to children. JUUL Labs stated that they requested the removal of over 5600 collective advertisements on Instagram and Facebook. Currently, there are hundreds of flavored alcohol manufacturers advertising on the Instagram platform with no warning plastered on their photos, furthermore, no repercussions. The vape industry is required by the FDA to post nicotine warnings on any advertisement of a nicotine E-liquid product. If these social media posts are the ‘marketing campaigns’ the FDA is blaming for this ‘youth epidemic’ why aren’t social media outlets guilty by association?
With multiple States enacting 21+ instead of 18+ age restrictions on tobacco products there should be no access to these vapor products among minors. Black market sales on social media platforms and websites with poor verification methods should be held responsible. Parents of minors using adult products should be held responsible to a degree. What happens if an adult lets a child consume a product like alcohol? It’s called contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Many parents can argue that they were completely unaware of their children using vapor products.
-Cease all social media advertisements.
-Cease all sales taking place at non-dedicated vapor outlets.
-Spend more than 3% of MSA funds towards educating minors on the harm of nicotine.
-Hold parents responsible for their children using vapor products.
-Cease all online sales.
What can you do to help?
We always recommend joining any of the many vapor advocacy groups like SFATA and CASAA that work to protect our rights as vapor consumers. To be completely transparent with all of our readers, now that this is in the president’s hands, the best point of attack is voicing our concerns directly to President Trump via Twitter (@realDONALDTRUMP) or by directly calling the White House at (202) 456-1414. We urge everyone to be diligent in voicing your concerns as soon as possible, explain that you’re an adult who uses flavored E-Liquids and explain why they are important to you. The “United Vapers Alliance” group on Facebook is currently organizing a march on the Nation's Capital to voice our concerns in much more personable manner. We will keep you up to date on the location, date, and time as the organization develops.
Lastly, I feel betrayed by the hypocrisy being portrayed throughout this mess. According to Mayo Clinic there are over 3 million cases of childhood obesity per year. Where are the government officials calling for flavor bans on Soda, and candy products? Both products are heavily marketed toward children and if you need a source for that statement just turn on your television.
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