The Increased Scrutiny On Flavoured E-Liquids
Since the “vaping epidemic” which stormed the United States of America in August 2019, we have seen an increase in reports and articles which suggest that vaping should be banned. In particular, we have seen an increase in talks on the regulations/ban of flavoured E-liquids. Arguments about the minimal regulation of the vaping industry have been brought to light and are being accused of the main reason for such an “epidemic” to take place (we all know that this is not the case in Ireland). The vaping industry in Ireland has been regulated to a certain extent in comparison to the industry in America.
To create a comparison between both countries would be a bold statement as retailers, manufacturers and distributors in Ireland are bound to certain legislation. On the 20th of May 2016, the HSE put into action The European Union (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco and Related Products) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 271 of 2016). These are guidelines and regulations which have the industry has had to follow, therefore making it impractical to compare and state that the vape industry in Ireland needs to be regulated even more heavily.
We at Vintage Vape Rooms have seen the change in the industry since the implementation of the regulations and no doubt it is for the better of consumers to ensure their health and safety are looked out for but that raises the question – “To what extent are regulations for the sole purpose of consumers and that there is no hidden agenda behind the regulations?” *Cough* Industrial monopoly by tobacco companies *Cough*.
Ireland’s Political View on Flavoured E-Liquids
On the 9th of January, TheJournal.ie, released an article titled “The tobacco industry targeting e-cigarettes at young people is cynical, sickening and dangerous” which quoted Simon Harris. Harris reported that the number of children ages 10-17 who have tried smoking dropped by 5% but he argues that the 22% of 12-17-year-olds say they have tried vaping of this 9 % said that they had tried it in the past 30 days. Expressing his concerns about these numbers he continues to point the finger towards flavoured E-liquids which Harris quotes “isn’t meant to target adults” (TheJournal.ie,2020).
What some people fail to recognise when they come across such flavoured liquids is that they were produced in a manner to create a warm sense of nostalgia among the older generation. Flavours and sweets would have been a staple of their upbringing. We noticed that – a lot of reports coming out lately portray that the number of people who are smoking has dropped over the years but what boils our blood is that the industry is not getting recognition as a harm reduction alternative. There is without a doubt, that the Vaping Industry as a whole has played a significant role in helping people tackle addiction towards regular combustible cigarettes and have helped with the decline in smokers *GLOBALLY*. Come on lads, let’s start recognising this!
Simon Harris, our ‘lovely’ Minister of Health has since expressed his opinions and thoughts regarding vaping and has made it clear that he has every intention of dropping the ban hammer on the industry with the goal of “regulating” it. In December, Minister Simon Harris said that “he is looking at addressing issues in relation to the sale of certain flavoured e-cigarettes, which he states are deliberately targetting children” (TheJournal.ie,2019). An assumption that is rather radical to suggest that vape shops and vape manufacturers are deliberately creating flavours and packaging them in a manner that is appealing to kids. Some of these flavours and packaging may seem this way but we believe these were created to stir up nostalgia with our adult customer base.
Enticing To Kids
We have identified that some packaging of E-liquid bottles may seem enticing towards the young ones but based on our knowledge of the industry in Ireland, it is safe to say that every shop does not serve or sell to individuals who are below the legal age. Tim Collins, the CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation said, “the fact that the only purpose of flavours like strawberry milkshake, cherry crush, chocolate mint and caramel is to lure a whole new generation of children into nicotine addiction” (TheJournal.ie,2019).
‘Stop will ye! We all know this is only an argument made up to justify their actions’. The call of regulation onto the vaping industry has become a hot topic among the government of Ireland and many other countries. That being said we feel that the complete ban and annihilation of flavoured E-liquids is a drastic approach of regulation to the industry. We are all for the just regulation but at this stage, it is starting to take the mickey! Hear me out with this!
If all flavoured E-liquids are banned from the vaping industry, what we will be left with is just two flavours TOBACCO and MENTHOL. Which funnily enough are the two most popular cigarette flavours in the world. This is turn keeps our association with smoking and is more likely to lead to the regular usage of combustible tobacco.
Big Tobacco Conspiracy
Is there a hidden agenda here? Why is there an increased involvement and investments made by Big Tobacco Companies in the Vaping industry? What is their long game? Are they here to monopolise another industry into creating an addictive substance for its users? Do tobacco companies feel threatened with the ideology of users giving up smoking? Speculating that this is longer gameplay by tobacco companies is a safe assumption. On December 20, 2018, tobacco big dogs Altria Groups invested a total of $12.8 billion in the popular Juul Labs which is the big guys in the vape industry (TheGuardian,2018). Not just investments into existing vape companies but big tobacco has started to release their own “vape devices” Blue, Logic, Vype etc are some examples of vape products released by tobacco companies.
Many vapers who have used electronic cigarettes tend to prefer vaping flavoured E-liquids. After conducting a poll on social media we found that 93% of vapers prefer using flavoured E-liquids instead of the 7% who prefer regular tobacco – from a total of 129 respondents, who voted based on personal use.
Respiratory Issues (EVALI)
August of 2019 saw an outbreak of lung illnesses in America which were allegedly caused by vaping, hence allegedly. Since then the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has named this epidemic as EVALI and found that the common denominator between all the cases was the presence of a substance called Vitamin E acetate. The FDA said that “Vitamin E acetate has been found in product samples tested by CDC from geographically diverse states. Vitamin E acetate has not been found in the lung fluid of people that do not have EVALI” (FDA.gov, 2019).
“This chemical is a synthetic form of vitamin E, and it’s used — safely — in nutritional supplements and skin creams. But it isn’t safe to inhale. Sticky and honey-like, it can hang around in the lungs, health officials said, interfering with how they function” – this chemical will never be found in regular E-liquids. The usage of this substance was in the illegal THC market in America whereby “Vitamin E acetate, an oily chemical added to some THC vaping liquids to thicken or dilute them” (Vox,2019). According to the report by the American Food & Drug Administration, they identified that “THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers, are linked to most EVALI cases and play a major role in the outbreak” (FDA.goc, 2019). Most cases were linked to users to who purchased THC-cartridges from unreliable sources – according to an article published by NBC News, titled ‘Tests show bootleg marijuana vapes tainted with hydrogen cyanide’ (NBCNews,2019).
Vaping poses much healthier benefits in comparison to smoking. As per reported by the NHS UK – vaping is 95% safer than smoking regular combustible tobacco.
The repercussions of the EVALI Epidemic
- Since the first report of this disease, we have seen the rise in concerns regarding vaping. Even though the culprit of this epidemic was bootleg marijuana cartridges, the electronic cigarette industry has suffered the backlash of this incident.
- Increased chatter of banning vapes (particularly flavoured/sweet vape E-liquids)
- Fueled the ban of vapes in several countries
No doubt that the industry needs to be regulated in order to ensure that proper safety measures are in place. Just like every other industry – we think that an absolute ban hammer on the entire industry is not the just action in order to regulate the industry. The HSE Ireland has been doing a pretty good job in making sure that most vendors and distributors in Ireland are complying to regulations and therefore deserve credit. Government representatives should take the time to learn about the industry and the consumers before jumping the gun to ban and regulate an industry which they have little knowledge off. Speculations can be made regarding the whole influence of the legislations and the call to ban flavoured E-liquids but what we would propose is for government bodies and regulators to conduct transparent market research regarding the industry. Identify key factors which enable vaping to be a healthier alternative and a more effective form of nicotine delivery systems in comparison to other methods out there. We support the idea behind ensuring that the marketplace is safe and regulated to ensure proper health and safety for consumers.