Editor's Note: The following is written and submitted by Tim Frey, owner of Ignite Vapor and Tobacco with locations in Spooner, Hayward, and Superior, WI.
'The Reality Behind The Flavor Ban'
I am a small business owner who started from scratch and I have three 18+ age verification shops that employ 10 people. Local vape shops are not big tobacco we are small business owners!
There is a middle ground that the government should employ rather than taking away people's freedom and the right to choose a harm reduction tool. This is still America, right? We all know how prohibition ended up in the ’20s and ’30s with a massive unregulated black market. There is a reason that there are liquor stores with age verification, we have had multiple attempts of a minor’s trying to purchase from us that are not of age and we have turned away and passed every ID check we have had. We do need to reduce the Youth problem and there are common-sense ways to do this without a knee-jerk ban.
First, most youths are getting these devices online; they can go to a local store use cash to put on a pre-paid credit card, order large quantities online (with no age verification) and then turn around and sell them to their friends. Or they are getting them from people that they know at all the local convince stores, not from age verification specialty shops.
When I first started out it was to help people kick the habit of smoking and we did just that, we have helped thousands of people get off combustible cigarettes. There is a reason that hospitals in the United Kingdom are opening up E-cig stores in hospitals. The Royal College of Physicians says that E-cigs are 95% less harmful than cigarettes. Once the FDA categorized E-cigs along with combustible tobacco, we are not allowed to say it helps people quit. I smoked for almost 20 years and tried everything out there to quit: gum, patches, Chantix (E-cig 33% quit ratio, Chantix 21%) and even hypnosis. Nothing worked for me except vaping. It took me three months but I was able to start replacing cigarettes with using my E-cig and was able to completely switch over. Then I was able to start controlling my nicotine level with different strength E-liquids and slowly reduce my nicotine intake, now I only use my E-cig if I have had a stressful day and need to relax.
Nicotine is addictive, however, it is also medicinal (for anyone that has ever tried a cigarette knows the feeling of relaxation that they got when they tried one) and in the crazy world we live in with all the anxiety, people need relaxation now more than ever. But big tobacco doesn’t use straight-up tobacco they add in chemicals to increase addiction (other than companies like American spirit). 480,000 people die each year to tobacco and 88,000 people die each year from alcohol and we aren’t looking for a ban on these products.
Let’s talk about how this all came to be.
Millions of Americans have been using E-cig’s since 2006 and now in 2019 all-of-a-sudden all of these outbreaks have happened. Any reasonable person can conclude that something doesn’t add up here. There are 4 different main things that people vape: E-liquid, Salt Nic, CBD, and THC. E-liquid ranges between 0-24 mg nicotine strength, Salt Nic is highly concentrated nicotine ranging from 25mg- 60mg which is most pod system devices (Juul) CBD and THC. The CDC just released findings that a majority of people getting sick have admitted to using black market THC carts and the ones who didn’t come from non-legal states (hence my probation argument).
There are two main reasons people are getting sick. One is the use of cutting agents (vitamin E) rather than pure THC concentrate. The second is that in the black market, these illegal black-market growers put fertilizers and pesticides on their plants to get them to grow to the biggest they can. Now, what do you think happens when a plant that has been sprayed with a pesticide gets processed down to a concentrate? You would be inhaling a concentrated pesticide that has unknown effects, but they are used to kill pests, probably the same with humans.
The majority of the youth are using Nic salts in pod systems with the high nicotine, and citric acid (the majority are sold in gas stations). Nic salts didn’t come into the market until recently and with only two levels of nicotine strength they are not used to get people off cigarettes they are used as a replacement. E-liquid has many different levels of strength which allows you to slowly lower your levels down so you don’t have to go cold turkey.
In regards to the flavors, I would say 80-90% of our customers use a flavor because adults like flavors too --if you don’t believe me look at all the different flavors of alcohol in the liquor stores.
The proposed flavor ban will push small business owners out, cost thousands of jobs, allow big tobacco to regain their lost market share and put Americans at the hands of big tobacco and thus create a huge unregulated black market. State’s tobacco bonds are tanking and Altria knew they would take a short-term loss investing in Juul because they know with a ban they will regain lost market share as people move back to combustible products.
Instead of Government overreaction, what should happen is common sense regulation (like alcohol), with increased enforcement and either ban online sales or use age verification and id checks like with alcohol and allow them only in specialty 18+ age verification shops!
By banning flavors, you will essentially wipe out the most successful small business industry that has come into existence since the great recession.