Earlier this month the Surgeon General issued a statement warning the public about the harm of vaping. We wholeheartedly disagree with his statement and here are a few reasons why:
The Surgeon General's statement said 16% of high school students admitted to using e-cigarettes and that "some" had never even smoked a cigarette before deciding to try out vaping. The actual number for 2016 is 14% showing that even the use of vaping is down from the previous year. Either way, the use of cigarettes is down and that should be touted as a huge for success but for obvious reasons that point is completely ignored. The Surgeon General wants us to believe the presence of electronic cigarettes is causing kids to start smoking but unfortunately in this situation correlation is not causation. To think that these students wouldn't have smoked cigarettes had they not had the choice to vape is naive and illogical. When young people are presented with a forbidden act they often find a way to do it anyways. This is the basic psychology of a young mind. Much like drinking alcohol, they will find a way if they really want to. To accuse the industry of being a facilitator of teen smoking is irresponsible and insulting. Have you ever seen a state or federally funded campaign attacking the makers of alcohol drinks that look identical to a soda bottle that are advertised on every television in America? Surely someone has complained but their concerns have likely fallen on deaf ears because there is no interest in fighting against that industry at this moment. The same cannot be said about the vape industry, unfortunately. There is much interest in attacking the whole vaping industry and if you wanted to know why that is I would encourage you to follow the money.
Another point the surgeon general stated is that teens had seen advertisements that made them want to try vaping. This is another point that is outright false. In the past three years, there have only been a few advertisements on TV and those were by companies created by big tobacco corporations (ex. Vuze, Njoy, Mark10.) Again, they would have you believe that small businesses, like VTA, have been advertising all over the television enticing teens to start vaping. We have never run a TV ad, mostly because the cost is very high and few small businesses can afford this type of ad campaign. Big tobacco companies who produce their own version of a vaping device can afford to run TV ads and they do. So why not go after big tobacco companies instead of small businesses that bear no responsibility for the television advertisements? Bureaucracy always seems to favor big business while creating legislation that essentially draws the blame to the little guys. That largely is because they are the ones writing the laws or paying for the research. The truth about advertising vape products is one even we have a hard time wrapping our heads around. Every social media site has banned the vape industry from advertising on their platform. While some have managed to get ads approved by Facebook, this is not a typical situation. We have personally had every ad we attempted to run declined by the moderators at Facebook. Instagram is a popular platform for the vape industry but it is owned by Facebook which means we are not allowed to run paid advertisements. Vape related companies are also not allowed to advertise on YouTube, Google or Bing. We have effectively been banned from advertising online. I will agree that there are ads in magazine but they are vape magazines which should not be in the possession of teens. They are implicitly for adult communities and are sent to businesses for their adult customers to enjoy. I cannot speak to every advertisement since I personally only subscribe to an Organic Gardening magazine and there has never been an advertisement for a vapor product in one. I would imagine that Teen Cosmo, Vogue, and Teen magazine wouldn’t allow us to advertise in their publication. Of course we would never do such a thing but we must think realistically if this is the industry’s problem or a deeper problem that is out of our control.
The Surgeon General said say teens are misinformed about the dangers. He said these young people believe that e-cigarettes are emitting water vapor and it is harmless. This is a typical situation government puts itself in; uninformed youth means the industry must be taxed to provide advocacy groups with funds to arm children with the "truth." (The US governments version of the truth of course.) This can be seen in California by a group called Still Blowing Smoke. This not-for-profit organization is funded by the Public Health Department in the state of California which consequently is funded by the taxpayers. California has seen the highest amount of industry regulation than any other state. If you have ever bought a pack of cigarettes in California you should know about the incredibly high taxation on tobacco products. If people stop buying the tobacco products it comes at a great cost to the state of California in the form of massive losses of revenue. At it’s very core, this is what fuels the advocacy against vaping. Someone is losing money and they do not like it one bit!
It’s the same old story that happened in 1998 with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. You may recall the Truth campaigns commercials with massive amounts of people playing dead to show how many people die each year from smoking, like this one. It’s hard to believe but these commercials are paid for by the tobacco companies. Still Blowing Smoke popped up as soon as vaping started taking away money from tobacco companies. This group was the first to attack the vape industry. SBS led the disinformation campaign against the vape industry and immediately put out misleading information contrary to statements by the Royal Institute of Physicians.
The Surgeon General and Anti-Tobacco advocacy groups may act on good intentions (maybe they don’t) but the real negative impact is done to small businesses who do not see themselves as individuals looking to harm others. In fact, the whole industry firmly believes it is working to help people. Teens choosing to use vape products cannot be solely blamed on the industry. Taking us all out will not solve anything. We have acknowledged marketing tactics used by some in the industry need to change (which we wrote about a previous blog.) However, we should never take a strong stance against something that has no real or honest research that proves it to be harmful to human health. We have a choice before us and it’s either accept the truths of another or use our own minds to assess the whole scope of this issue. Sure, it’s much easier to submit by following the crowd into the oblivion with all the other "facts" about unsettled science and you will be rewarded for your ignorance with acceptance. Truth is something we all seek and we will never find it in corporations, lobbyists or advocacy groups working for their own interests. Once upon a time the smartest people on earth accepted that disease epidemics were caused by bad air that came in at night, this was called the Miasma Theory. This was accepted as fact for hundreds of years past when it should have been. It wasn’t until the 1880s that scientists and doctors would accept that the spread of diseases and viruses was caused by germs. Think of how many lives could have been saved if they had just given “wash your hands” a chance?