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An Asphyxiating Vaping Industry

Robert Franklin

Posted on September 12, 2019 00:39

1 user

For the last few weeks, a sudden outbreak of acute, severe respiratory illnesses attributed to vaping has spread across the country's news headlines like wildfire, riling up politicians and creating a very real existential threat to the commercial vaping industry. But are the e-cigarettes actually to blame, or is there something else more deserving of our attention buried in these headlines?

As the paranoia ramps up on the vaping industry, lawmakers around the country are banging the prohibition war drums. Lawmakers in Wisconsin and Michigan are experimenting with banning e-cigarettes. President Trump is even jumping into the ring to beat up on the vaping industry, advising the FDA to institute a nationwide ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

While it's unfortunate that people are getting sick in a particularly disturbing way, and I don't want to seem callous or adversarial to their suffering, it's difficult to look at how suddenly this story is blowing up without feeling like something is off about it.

To start, we're on the verge of a health panic over 450 cases of pulmonary disease attributed to vaping, of which six have died. That's only just over 13 cases per jurisdiction that reported them. By way of comparison, lawmakers aren't jockeying for a nationwide ban on cigarettes which kill around 480,000 annually.

That's over 7,000 annual deaths per U.S. state, territory, and Washington, D.C.

I find it interesting that commercial vaping has been around for over a decade and only just now, as its popularity grows, is there suddenly a public health crisis looming over it.

While the focus has been on the devices and the liquids themselves, a significant percentage of those recently afflicted mentioned they smoked THC oil through their devices, and further, many of the tested products contained tocopherol.

Synthetic tocopherol is commonly synthesized using trimethylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based compound used as a topical skin lightening agent that has been labelled carcinogenic by the European Union. While the compound is not prohibited in the United States, even the FDA has expressed concern over it in the past.

Needless to say, inhaling trimethylhydroquinone may not be smartest thing for someone to do.

The point is that there are other factors worth investigating before just deciding to ban something outright. But what if a ban -- which the FDA admits will carry a heavy cost of compliance, including "product exit, consolidation, and reduction in variety" -- was the entire point anyway?

Some believe, and even I think it's at least worth mentioning, that swift and severe market consolidation could have a more nefarious motivation behind it. Destroying a significant part of the e-cig market would only prove beneficial to Phillip Morris International, whose e-cig-like device, IQOS, is set to debut soon in Atlanta.

If the FDA ends up banning unapproved e-cigarettes, they could be handing an effective monopoly to Phillip Morris International, who is eyeing a merger with Altria -- who owns Phillip Morris USA, the makers of Juul -- motivated by the combined firm's potential to dominate a market for lower-risk nicotine delivery systems, like vaping.

And few can play Washington like Phillip Morris.

It's awful that people are getting sick like this, but I don't think a paranoia-fueled overcorrection -- or worse, a concerted effort to destroy an entire industry -- is the way to handle it. Do you?

 

Robert Franklin

Posted on September 12, 2019 00:39

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Source: WCVB Sports

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has ordered doctors to report vaping-related illnesses to the state.

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