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At the Mercy of Mad Men

Written by: Corey Fox

I love the smell of prohibition in the morning. Vaping, for better or worse, has permeated its way into festival culture. A tool to ease the nicotine fixes that haunt our weary bones after a long day of raving. They’re easy to conceal, easy on the nostrils, and only irritating to the non-vapers as they fight to see the stage through a billowing cloud of cotton candy contrails. It’s become a way for smokers to continue receiving their usual nicotine doses, while at the same time, shedding the dead weight of carcinogenic combustibles.

The asthma, the unrelenting coughing fits, and the debilitating dyspnea caused by the rotting smell of ignited plant fumes should be a thing of the past. A remnant of a day when 1960’s ad men sat inside their offices on thrones of excess, slowly contributing to their COPD with unfiltered poison wrapped in conspicuous rolling papers. Who would have thought that technology could have evolved in a way that could truly help society like hurricane breakers, forged for the sole purpose; to help curb and subside the rampant tsunami of lung cancer patients that die every single year due to smoking cigarettes. But of course, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Recently, our President, took the first initiative to ban flavored nicotine based e-liquid and permanently purge it from the marketplace. In what could be, quite literally, the biggest case of mistaken identity the industry has ever seen. Mysteriously, over the past month or so, teenagers, young adults and even some elderly folks around America have fallen ill, contracting cases of lipid pneumonia -- and in some cases even dying from their ailments. Dozens of deaths have been reported thus far. The media, and of course, our “government” would like you to believe that “vaping” is the smoking gun. There is so much misinformation floating around the atmosphere, that it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees.

The powers that be, are using “vaping” as an umbrella term. As if all e-liquids are created equally. Currently the term “vaping” has also been applied to the dab pen sensation that is sweeping the country. For years, dab pens, have become a titanic fixture in the THC/Medical Marijuana realm. Dispensaries have made oil pens a staple in the art of the modern marijuana market. They’re potent, powerful and omnipotent in their delivery of tetrahydrocannabinol. The downside to this, of course, is the rise of these black market cartridges and their lack of quality control or regulations. Knockoff dab carts, concocted by basement dwelling, nefarious slumlords masquerading as alchemists; with your friendly neighborhood bathtub variety of household products and ingredients, are being sold on the streets to unsuspecting, and underage consumers; who have no interest in anything but the end result.

Recently a number of these black market companies have been diluting their mixtures of THC oil with the additive Vitamin E acetate. A compound that was never meant to be inhaled or warmed with a heating element. It’s being used as a diluent thickener primarily in these underground circles and labeled under the guise of name-brand counterfeit cartridges. Leaving consumers and patients in quite the perplexing predicament.

Leading the goose chase, is New York state, who just recently enacted America’s first state wide ban of flavored e-juice. In some ways even legislating it to the tune of methamphetamines. Stating that you cannot “possess, manufacture, distribute, sell or offer for sale any flavored liquid or product containing the same”. This will also include some vapers who have chosen to take the less traditional route of DIY’ing. DIY’ing is a process where you, yourself, purchase the Vegetable Glycerine, nicotine, and food grade flavorings in bulk to mix at home at your own leisure. Ensuring that you know exactly what ingredients are being added to your juice. And yet for some Bizarro-World reason, tobacco flavored juices will remain untouched from a legal standpoint. Which brings about a great question; how the fuck are they going to enforce this? Do they plan on distributing standard issue mech mods and RDAs to police officers for flavor testing purposes during traffic stops?

“That’s some dank juice you got here ma’am, but we’re going to have to confiscate this”

I find it difficult to understand the logic behind this great injustice being forced on the health of our American citizens. Since when do we trust the government to decide what we do to our own bodies? Do we offer O’Douls to alcoholics in order to cease their alcohol cravings? The answer is no, we do not. So why should we settle for tobacco flavored e-liquid? I mean, it’s doubt that Nicorette will suddenly stop selling fruity flavored gum. The mental gymnastics needed to assess this current debacle would drive any logical person to the brink of insanity. And it doesn’t stop there.

The fractured chasm dividing the informed and the misinformed has massively splintered, almost to the point of no return. A complete and utter lack of communication on all parties involved. New York State and Governor Cuomo are both aware of the issues at hand. They’ve even taken steps to subpoena makers of the additive Vitamin E acetate, because they know that the deadly cases of lipoid pneumonia are being caused by an oil based anomaly. Essentially transforming into hydrogen cyanide once the additive is heated with a coil and inhaled. The FDA (who has been a thorn in the side of the industry for years) released a statement warning everyone to avoid THC oil cartridges until the abnormality can be quarantined. So why is the government conflating nicotine e-liquid with THC oil cartridges and why are they up in arms to the point of it? As if adults don’t enjoy eating candy? As if the alcohol industry hasn’t been marketing to children for years with such asinine mixtures like marshmallow flavored vodka? As if thousands of underage kids die from alcohol related deaths each year?

It boils down to “where were the parents”. Plain and simple. You cannot dismantle an entire industry based off the premise of smoking cessation due to a few deaths. It’s clearly a governmental overreach and blatant disregard for the 400,000+ souls who die yearly from tobacco related deaths. A black market will only lead to less regulation, less quality control and more deaths than ever expected.

On top of that, this dilemma has become some-what of a conspiracy theorists field day. A case of more questions than answers. Why is this all happening now, with vaping being available on a world scale for a decade, maybe longer? Why did the company Altria, which also happens to own Marlboro, become a top investor in JUUL? JUUL, being the 2 billion dollar a year company, operating without a shred of morality. A colossal juggernaut overpowering the competitors while ultimately cornering the market just to end up as the biggest vape company sham of the decade. A company responsible for putting small USB stick style vapes into pop culture; available at all 7 Elevens and bodegas where anyone could acquire them. They’re unjustly taking the responsibility away from vape shops where you need to be 18+ or 21+ to purchase them. So why the massive public health scare now? What does JUUL do to advocate for healthy smoke cessation? They themselves have even been investigated for marketing to kids by the government while its shareholders donate hundreds of thousands through lobbyism to government officials, and unfortunately it only gets weirder from here.

Some of you may be tangentially aware of the Masters Settlement Agreement. This deal was purported back in 1998 between The Big 4 (Philip Morris Inc., R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard) whom agreed to settle with 46 states for improperly advertising tobacco products for years amongst other infractions. The states would receive yearly payments on the promise that these tobacco companies would stop their enticing ads and finally expose smoking for what it was -- a deadly habit that can cause cancer. And here is where the states mishandled the agreement. They sold bonds to Wall Street anticipating these annual payments. And since sales of cigarettes have been steadily dropping since the year 2000, you can see where this conflict of interest is manifesting. Theorists believe states such as New York and California do not want people to quit smoking; enacting flavor bans by way of guerilla warfare on a budding industry designed to take money out of their pockets. For some it’s plain to see, and for others, it’s too far fetched to consider.

Is it possible that festivals could be the next to ban all vape devices? From dab pens and nicotine devices alike? Due to the avalanche of propaganda and misinformation, this is a strong possibility. I myself, do not recommend using any dab cartridges without some research on the product beforehand. And where exactly does this leave nicotine vapers? I can say with certainty that they will adapt. Elected officials do not understand how this culture started -- vapers are tinkerers by nature. Constructing coils and conjuring up mathematical equations to calculate the proper resistance for their RDA clapton's. Super sub-ohming and abiding by Ohm’s Law like amateur scientists. DIY’ing their own mixtures of e-liquid by acquiring VG by the gallons. Freezing their stashes of nicotine and placing beakers on digital scales to follow recipes by the letter. They’ve MacGuyver’d their way to evolve the market into what it’s become. A multi-billion industry designed to help people stop smoking.

Sure, the culture is rotten from the inside out. Sure, some sheisty and sinister folk heroes have emerged from the shadows to pledge allegiance to vaping advocacy; just to unceremoniously bleed gullible vapers out of their own hard earned cash. Promising litigation on the front lines just to disappear into the darkness like Darkwing Duck with a quick whip of his cape. The ecosystem of vaping has been backed up to the jilted edges, teetering on oceanside cliffs; idling on borrowed time while the powers that be slowly inch forward. At the heart of this industry are people who truly care about helping people quit cigarettes. That should ultimately be the goal, no? To ensure that this generation doesn’t end up like the one before it?

Ah well folks, strap on your flood pants.

Grab your ponchos and galoshes,

Because the water is murky as fuck down here.

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