Is the vaping crisis real or just an overblown set of unrelated incidents?
Roughly a year ago, I was sitting in the Toronto offices of a company that had just launched a vaping product. This was not CBD or THC, but just a regular nicotine delivery system. My friend works there, and she was all about vaping – she had quit smoking a few years ago, and saw the vape as a way to continue to be a ‘non-smoker’. The irony is not lost on me either, rest assured.
When I quit smoking, a number of years ago, I tried a couple of e-cigarettes, but the taste was horrible, and the experience was nothing like smoking, so I went on about my business of quitting without that particular means of doing it.
So I asked my friend what was in the unit she was vaping – specifically what the filler was – and I was pretty surprised when she really didn’t have an answer for me. Oil? Yes, but what kind of oil? No real clue. Yikes. I may have been a partier back in the day, but I’ve never been inclined to put anything in my mouth that I didn’t know where it came from and exactly what was in it. No thanks. At least with big tobacco, you know they’re putting all kinds of chemicals into cigarettes besides tobacco, otherwise you wouldn’t keep coming back for more.
Nine. 530. 70,237. And they are calling vaping the crisis?
As I am typing this, a ninth case in the US has just been confirmed. A man in Kansas has died, and the CDC says that the total number of sick people due to vaping stands at 530. According to this very same CDC, 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, mostly opioid related. I’m not very good at math, but I really can’t look at these three numbers and find any semblance for comparison.
As we have discussed recently on the podcast and in articles here, the CBD industry has devolved into an insane wild west where most of what people are buying doesn’t even have any actual CBD in it – and if it does then it’s such a tiny amount that we’re really watching snake oil salesmen slap a CBD label on something – who knows what – and take market share from the small companies (and larger ones) that have legitimate CBD products on the market but who aren’t email spammers or multilevel marketers or the like.
We do need more control over the CBD market, and we need more required testing of products, whether they are CBD or THC based. We should be testing for pesticides, heavy metals, actual amounts of CBD or THC in the product, that kind of thing. Testing causes the price to rise, we all know that.
Vaping is definitely convenient – its a simple, easy way to get a dose of your preferred substance, but the proliferation of vape manufacturers at all price points, coupled with untested and unregulated raw materials – we’re not even talking illegal, illicit, or black market sales yet – creates a situation where there are many points that contaminants can enter the finished product without detection.
Is this just another way for big business to take over our industry?
On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that people (and it is people who run businesses when it’s all said and done) would stoop so low as to make other people sick, but frankly it happens all the time. I’m not going to preach, you can likely imagine my political and environmental views, but I also believe that businesses have to make money to stay in business, and without companies that are producing good products we will see the entire industry fail.
It is, without a doubt, possible that some of the better funded brands or companies that are transitioning into the space will take this as an opportunity to gain market share, promote onerous regulations and testing beyond what is reasonable in order to quash small producers. There’s almost no way around it, and while that is regrettable, we also owe consumers a product that’s not going to fry their lungs and make them so ill they might die.
It’s also the duty of the state governments that license THC producers and distributors to get a handle on this before it actually turns into a real crisis, instead of a pseudo-epidemic of miniscule proportions that’s been blown up to distract us from other, more serious and problematic, news in the cycle.
Speaking of the states… what are they doing about vaping?
California is trying to get ahead of the situation – but since this isn’t limited to THC or CBD products, there’s a lot of ground to cover here. Education and awareness is a primary goal.
Michigan is going after tobacco products, especially flavored products, and has banned their sale.
New York is also attempting to ban all flavored e-cigarettes.
Other states are working with their health agencies to develop a program but it’s hard to formulate a plan when they are not entirely sure what they are supposed to be combatting. This could turn out to be a situation caused by a pesticide, a chemical reaction between fillers, or it could even be deliberate sabotage – a la Tylenol back in the day.