Flavour bans are spreading in the US "Only the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries benefit"

Vape 2019. Two US states have banned flavoured e-juices and many more are planning to do so. President Donald Trump even wants to impose a ban at the state level.

The reason, at least according to politicians, is the outbreak of lung diseases linked to vejpning. Meanwhile, US authorities have long since more or less recognised that the lung damage suffered by nearly 400 American vejpers can be traced directly to the improperly manufactured THC juice.
What do THC and cannabis have to do with flavours and what is happening in the US?
Vejpkollen asked the question to Niklas Linder which is one of many players in the Swedish vejp market. He owns and runs the vejp shop Swedish Mixology, but is also involved in the industry organisation VapeSweden, VSW.

"I think Americans are a bit confused about how to deal with the products from several perspectives: economic, political and health. You have to remember that the US doesn't work like Sweden: the medical bills from the enormous damage caused by smoking are paid for by private individuals - if they can't pay, private companies take the financial hit," says Niklas Linder.

So you mean the US states are not losing money from the harmful effects of smoking?

"For the states, traditional tobacco is a profitable business in purely financial terms, both thanks to tax revenues (tobacco products are subject to particularly high taxes) but also through something called "The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement", which is a settlement between the tobacco companies and the states in which the tobacco companies are to pay the US states more than a trillion (!) kronor in compensation for being exempted from liability for the damage caused by their products. In the US, it is also customary for private companies to financially sponsor politicians in various ways - which has a noticeable effect on politics. Both traditional tobacco companies and pharmaceutical companies are strongly opposed to e-cigarettes, as e-cigarettes have taken large market shares from both industries in a short period of time. So a lot of resources are being spent on counteracting the success of e-cigarettes through lobbying politicians, targeting the media and even commissioning research with skewed results."

But surely it's not just crass economic interests here? E-cigs as a phenomenon have raised concerns among many that someone is trying to hide the potential dangers of the products?

 "There is genuine concern and ignorance. People are simply afraid that e-cigarettes will both normalise smoking and have hidden dangers. Politics in the US is more emotionally driven than we are used to and it is easier to ban something new (which also steals money from the coffers) than to deal with the issue. The majority of Americans still believe that e-cigarettes are actually more dangerous than cigarettes and this is reflected in their policies. I also believe that what we are seeing in the US is an attempt by tobacco companies and pharmaceutical companies to limit the availability of e-cigarettes. By banning more than 90 per cent of the products on the market, they are effectively reducing the number of e-cigarette users and allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue to do more "smoking cessation". If, in addition, unnecessarily high and specific requirements are imposed on the products, such as requirements for tobacco character (in the flavours), the advantage is shifted to the tobacco companies."

But tobacco companies and the pharmaceutical industry have had this agenda for a long time. Why is all this happening now, suddenly?

"In the US, the success of e-cigarettes has grown exponentially in recent years and tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies and states have lost a lot of money. At the same time, these companies have not really had an angle of attack on e-cigarettes. Several attempts at 'fake research' to spread lies have been made without much success (researchers and industry have been able to quickly dismiss the studies as outright wrong). The media has hounded the industry with misleading horror headlines. Yet the product has continued to gain ground because, compared to cigarettes, there have been hardly any injuries and people generally enjoy the product and feel better.

But now people are getting "sick of e-cigarettes"...

"In recent months, liquids that can be used in e-cigarettes to get a high (marijuana-based liquids) have hit the black market in the US, causing serious damage as they are based on oils that cannot be inhaled. This was simply a new angle of attack on e-cigarettes of all kinds for the companies, which produced better results than previous attempts. For the first time, the media was able to show pictures of young people in hospital and state that they had been harmed by e-cigarettes (because the detail of their use of illegal black market drugs is often omitted from the reporting) and this was an incredibly effective strategy. It's simply easier to reach the hearts of the public with scary headlines if you can also showcase injured young people and give people a face to sympathise with."

What are the consequences of these bans in the rest of the world?

 "In 2019, it is to be hoped that most governments, especially in the EU, will see through the emotional and corporate-sponsored rhetoric of American politics. But the truth is that the US is still a major power and the decisions made there have a ripple effect on the rest of the world's politics to varying degrees. In the EU, there is generally no government economic incentive to limit the success of e-cigarettes and a healthier population, but we may see further restrictions on supply."

Do you think something similar could happen in Sweden?

 "We have seen examples of emotionally driven debates and great ignorance among politicians when it comes to e-cigarettes. The ignorance became particularly clear when the excise tax was introduced, which increases the cost to the consumer by SEK 25 per 10 ml of nicotine-containing liquid. The justification was then that 10 ml of e-juice (the amount of nicotine is irrelevant) corresponds to 100 cigarettes, which is completely out of touch with reality and was protested without success. I would probably say that the e-cigarette market in Sweden would be in much worse shape if it were not for EU legislation that actually supersedes our national laws. The whole issue of e-cigarettes is handled carefully or not at all here and the easy way out (restrictions and bans) is taken."

Are there any grounds for the criticism that specific flavours in e-juice are driving young people to start using e-cigarettes?

"Young people have always been and will always be inclined to flirt with the forbidden and this is probably simply the driving factor behind them trying both tobacco and e-cigarettes. There is no denying that the flavouring is something that makes the product much more pleasant to use - of course it is! But the idea that young people would start using e-cigarettes primarily for the sake of the flavour is grasping at straws; drinks and various sweets are both cheaper and much more accessible to them."

How do you recognise the interest of young people in your work?

 "A positive trend we've noticed is that many newly turned 18-year-olds buy a cheap starter kit of nicotine-free e-juices to get their fascination with "smoking" over with and shortly afterwards simply stop when their interest wanes. E-cigarettes work just as well without nicotine (and the flavour is more pronounced), so you don't get hooked. My personal opinion is that nicotine-free e-cigarettes have probably prevented many people from getting stuck in the lifelong addiction that traditional cigarettes create."

Read more about the vape ban in New York
Read more about the lung damage suffered by vejpers in the USA.
Read more about flavour bans in the US
Read more about Donald Trump's approach to vaping

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