On June 25, Bob Barr released an opinion article addressing how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to destroy the vaping industry, creating “collateral damage” for hundreds of “Mom and Pop tobacco and vaping business(es).”
What Barr doesn’t address is the use of flavored tobacco products within our youth is on the rise, with 81 percent of youth tobacco users stating the first tobacco product they tried was flavored. Hookah and e-cigarettes are the top two products used by youth tobacco users. Although there are regulations in place, the tobacco industry manages to attract our youth population through “fun” flavors and marketing strategies.
The FDA recently issued 17 warning letters to companies that used misleading labels or advertised e-liquids containing tobacco as kid-friendly food products. Some of those flavors were One Mad Hit Juice Box, Candy King Sour Worms, Patches by Candy Co, V’Nilla Cookies and Milk, Whip’d Strawberry, Unicorn Cakes, Vape Heads Sour Smurf Sauce and Twirly Pop. Why would you need childish flavors and bright labels alluding to apple juice boxes and candy if these were meant for adults?
On top of flavors, new e-cigarettes shaped like flash drives, called JUUL, are making nicotine more accessible than ever to our youth. A single JUUL pod (the liquid refill) contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. As of December 2017, JUUL is the top-selling e-cigarette brand in the United States.
Barr attempts to make the point that e-cigarettes “contain nary a scintilla of tobacco,” even though they’re considered a tobacco product. When a product is described as a “tobacco product” it doesn’t mean that there’s actual tobacco in it, but that the product delivers nicotine into the bloodstream. Vaping devices do, in fact, contain quite a large range of nicotine, an addictive chemical found in tobacco. The risks associated with nicotine pose a threat to anyone who uses these systems. Those risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders and lowered impulse control.
In teens specifically, nicotine impacts almost two dozen neurotransmitters, also known as the “molecules of emotion.” It elevates dopamine, which provides pleasure. Teen’s brains also change in reaction to nicotine by increasing the number of nicotine receptors. Therefore, every time nicotine is inhaled they are increasing the amount of nicotine they need to feel satisfied. This is how the addiction forms.
Let’s go a step further and explore all the chemicals found in e-cigarettes and the vapor they emit; nicotine, ultrafine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs, diacetyl (linked to lung disease), benzene (found in car exhaust) and heavy metals (nickel, tin and lead). Second-hand smoke is also a reality when it comes to vaping devices, which means that a passerby is also inhaling all of the above.
While the vaping industry has proven beneficial to daily smokers in an effort to help them wean off cigarettes, it’s also proven detrimental to the fight against nicotine use in under-aged children. In reality, the “bureaucratic nannies” of the FDA aren’t harming the vaping industry, the industry is harming itself by targeting our children. So when Barr addresses the “all-out assault” on flavored tobacco products by the FDA, let’s not forget that it’s the “Mom and Pop” stores that are selling these products. Instead of being angry at an administration that’s attempting to ensure the safety of America’s youth, maybe we should be angry at the companies and stores selling what makes the most profit. They’re the ones making it game-over for everyone — including those who play by the rules because they’ve become guilty by association.