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Ron Patton | September 12, 2019
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Today, I learned a hard lesson in how being an independent contractor can put you in a very vulnerable position financially. When you are not really a business person and you rely on outside advice and pay for outside accounting, there can be a miscalculation and when you think you are ahead, there is always another business or even a government that wishes to bankrupt you.

Well, an attempt was made today and I was in no position nor was I aware of how powerful a lobby can be – I can’t legally speak about it but it has certainly created a major but temporary financial hardship on my independent broadcast abilities.

It will certainly put a strain on my family. I certainly realized today that I can’t always do what I do for free and that I will have to work harder to make sure my family and my show stay on the air.

Running a thriving and successful business isn’t easy especially when you talk about subjects that may get the attention of people that wish to crush you out of jealousy or wish to make life hard for you because you said the wrong thing.

There are groups that fight tooth and nail just to watch you struggle because they want a leg upon you or want to get your attention through finances.

I guess the more successful you become, the more money you have so it’s no surprise when someone including the government would resort to unfair predatory practices just to get ahead.

I guess I can relate to the vaping industry as their success has alerted various people and businesses that really don’t like to see someone succeed so they try to bankrupt them by using predatory business practices and when they have the backing of the government – you really have no dog in the fight.

Public health detectives are desperately trying to find the cause of the hundreds of lung disease cases and at least six deaths that appear to be related to vaping.

We don’t yet know the cause or causes of the current outbreak; however, in response to a study that found lung-damaging chemicals in some Juul e-cigarette liquids, a spokesman for that company didn’t dispute the finding but claimed it was irrelevant, saying “The researchers’ hypothetical exposure analysis failed to take into account real-world conditions, including realistic human exposure to vapor products like Juul.

While the media is pushing the horror stories about vaping there are some things that maybe you should know about what is really going on.

President Donald Trump made a bold move yesterday floated the idea of a policy that he framed as a response to the reports of lung illnesses and deaths that appear to be related to vaping.

He said that he would like to ban flavored e-cigarettes. He announced this during a press conference in the Oval Office in which he acknowledged that one of his reasons he was moving swiftly on this was because of the first lady Melania Trump’s concern for their son, Barron, and other teens like him.

While I do not endorse vaping, I am for freedom of choice and the outright banning of a product without any further investigation into it opens a whole lot of curious speculation and becomes low-lying fruit for anyone that wishes to develop a healthy conspiracy theory.

It is quite interesting that ban extends only to flavored vaping and not tobacco vaping in general.

Companies can apply to the FDA to bring their flavored e-cigarettes back on the market, but they’ll have to be approved by the regulator. “These FDA decisions require companies to prove that the marketing of those products is appropriate for the protection of public health.”

There are a lot of problems with what is happening and again emotional knee jerk decisions are being made without any investigation into what appears to be a desperate move by the tobacco lobby, possible black market corporate espionage, and predatory corporate practices. The extreme view is that there may be a possibility that we could be looking at a food and drug terror model to bring about Problem-Reaction-Solution.

It appears that it is not the flavors that seem to be responsible for the outbreak of vaping-associated lung injury that has so far sickened hundreds and killed at least six people. The main culprit appears to be vitamin E acetate, a derivative in THC-containing e-cigarettes, as well as other contaminants found in black market products.

Banning flavored e-cigarettes as a way of combating the outbreak of vaping-associated lung illness is like banning all cheeseburgers because of an E. coli outbreak on two lettuce farms. It’s the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

It is a feel-good solution that appears to be doing something, but it won’t actually help.

The fear that is being generated out of the blue is suspect and here is why:

Last year the CDC released a report that never made it to the mainstream news. They reported that the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults about 14% is at an all-time low since the federal government began tracking such data in 1965.

Now that is a health triumph for the centers for health but it is not good news for tobacco companies.

So, the result was not to report the good news – it was an opportunity to start generating fear stories about vaping instead.

A cynical truth of journalism is that Good news is boring while adversarial stories and guerilla journalism is what sells newspapers and generates ratings and revenue. This is why the 24 hour news cycle jumps on whatever scandal, natural disaster, or homicide, it can – they can have you believe the crime rate is out of control when statistics show it is lower and they can take their pick of any number of shootings but they pick the ones that generate political discussion to further an agenda of gun control.

Now think about what is happening here—they are trying to ban flavored e-cigarettes, without banning flavored cigarettes and cigars, does anyone see a hole in this script?

Again the media is showing bias and in some cases are using this “ban idea” as a way to show the hypocrisy of the Trump administration on the subject of guns.

This pervasive, insidious form of media bias also does a huge disservice to public health. How so? Because when major health triumphs are ignored, the public tends to obsess over the dangers of much smaller risks. And that’s exactly what has happened in regard to cigarettes and vaping.

Think about this– Researchers have long known that menthol cigarettes are more attractive to young people and are harder to quit than regular cigarettes. They’ve also been heavily marketed at and are especially popular among black smokers.

As combustible products, they’re more dangerous than e-cigarettes. Yet they, along with flavored cigars, have been allowed to remain on the market.

It is a difficult subject to approach because if you say that when the smoke clears something is not right about the ban – people think that you support the practice.

I don’t smoke and I don’t vape but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see what is happening here and how it does not seem like the idea of banning one thing and allowing another does not smack of favoring one product and vilifying the other.

No good ever comes from inhaling chemicals into your lungs but while there is an effort to convince everyone that vaping is a gateway to cigarettes the truth is it has helped people kick cigarettes and this is not a good thing for the tobacco lobby.

Many mainstream news outlets have reported that:

“Research indicates many ­e-cigarette users are likely to become addicted to nicotine and some will probably end up on regular cigarettes.”

The question is does any well-informed individual actually believe this?

Haven’t we heard this before from the anti- Marijuana lobby? Nobody seriously believes that marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs, so why would the “gateway hypothesis” be true for e-cigarettes?

It’s not likely to be true, and evidence for vaping as a gateway to anything is incredibly flimsy.

What we are seeing is more hype than a hazard.

The truth is this: In an ideal world, adults and kids don’t engage in harmful behaviors. But we don’t live in that kind of world and we as Americans should stand behind choice and this obviously is an emotional appeal with a Catch 22.

People should be concerned but they should be consistent and they should be aware that this whole vaping scare could be fueled by a tobacco lobby that is seeing it’s cigarette sales plummet.

Cigarette smoking still kills approximately 480,000 Americans per year. So far vaping-associated lung injury has killed exactly six people. Granted, if in the long run vaping turns out to be more on-ramp than off-ramp for cigarette smoking, we would have to reconsider these figures, especially if flavors themselves were determined to be a crucial factor.

But for now the proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but not actual cigarettes, appears to be yet another example of a policy that is no more than a futile gesture pointing away from one real problem at hand and toward another: We are all very bad at assessing health risks.

As a society, we have confronted the issue of marketing dangerous products that adults may use but kids may not before. We banned advertising campaigns of cigarettes that clearly appealed to minors. That worked. Additionally, underage drinking has steadily declined in the past decade amazingly, the alcohol industry has largely self-regulated, and we didn’t even have to ban Mike’s Hard Lemonade or White Claw Hard Seltzer.

Another problem with this vaping ban is lack of context. There are other things more hazardous that teens and adults have to deal with when they partake of a certain vice. Unprotected sex, hard drugs, all of those evils are far more terrifying than nicotine.

However, I have to preface my argument with the statement that participating in none of this is type of activity would be best, but for those who can’t maintain abstinence, nicotine is like caffeine but it is the other poisons in the combustible cigarette that can kill you and so far we are not hearing about a ban of commercial cigarette sales, nor are we hearing about a ban on flavored cigarettes or even flavored chewing tobacco.

Again, this highly suspicious and it is obvious that what is being used is something called the food and drug terror model in order to skew public opinion.

The tobacco industry has always had the modus operandi of selling their poisonous cigarettes fast and then counting the bodies later.

Within the vaping industry, we are seeing that the flavored substances are appealing to young people which can actually make young people addicted before they are the age of 18. This can be said to be one of the biggest pediatric diseases that we have to face while cigarette smoking has dropped – young people are still smoking cigarettes and some are dropping them for vaping.

No one is considering the banning of flavored cigarettes and cigars even though 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.

There have been cartoon characters that have marketed cigarette to kids – from the Flintstones to Joe Camel and we wonder why Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first try cigarette smoking by age 18, and 98% first try smoking by age 26.

In 2014, 73% of high school students and 56% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time.

Many young cigarette smokers have left behind cigarettes for vaping and that threatens the tobacco industry. Cannabis is also threatening big tobacco, and lately it has also fallen under attack as a few reports in the press have vilified it by claiming the first known death linked to it and how that black market vaping and products are loaded with huge amounts of THC.

The truth is the tobacco lobby in this country is still a powerful one and it is obviously seeing vaping as a threat to their combustible cigarettes.

When Reynolds and Altria decided belatedly to enter the e-cigarette market last year, the two companies chose to develop and manufacture only e-cigs that are known as “cigalikes.”

Cigalike e-cigs are designed to look, feel, and taste like traditional cigarettes. These products have cartridges that are pre-filled and sealed and must be thrown away or recycled after several hours of use.

Cigalikes work for some smokers, but they generally suffer from poor battery life, inadequate nicotine delivery, a lack of flavor options, and high prices that make switching to vaping with these products nearly as expensive as smoking cigarettes or even more so.

Premium vapor products (PVs) evolved out of consumer frustration with the limitations imposed by cigalikes.

PVs are larger than cigalike e-cigs and tend to look more like sonic screwdrivers than traditional cigarettes. Small bottles of nicotine-containing or nicotine-free e-liquid are used to refill PVs with any flavor and nicotine level the consumer desires. Studies are unsurprisingly finding that users of these fill-it-yourself vapor products are significantly more likely to quit smoking than those who use cigalike e-cigs. Many ex-smokers credit the ability to switch between a variety of flavors as being a prime reason for their being able to quit.

At the moment, the largest player in the cigalike market is Reynolds, which still makes by far most of its money selling cigarettes.

Unfortunately for Reynolds, sales of PVs and e-liquid surpassed cigalike e-cigs in 2014. Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog estimates that the PV and e-liquid market in the U.S. is about $1.5 billion and rapidly growing, compared with a stagnant $1 billion market for cigalikes.

When the success of some of America’s largest companies are threatened, they will often turn to the government for a helping hand. They have been doing that for at least the past century. In recent years Congress gave more than $1 trillion in bailouts to banks, car companies, and credit lenders in the midst of great financial turmoil.

But that kind of generosity isn’t the only way Uncle Sam has helped many of America’s biggest companies maintain market share. Using the growing bureaucracy’s powerful regulations, many corporations have worked hand-in-hand with government to snuff out competition.

Big Tobacco has been trying to eliminate small startups that are helping people quit smoking. Cigarette companies are spending millions of dollars to push product bans like what we are seeing with vaping.

They have been asking that higher taxes be levied against these businesses, and have asked for expensive regulations be placed on their competitors.

The cigarettes sold by Reynolds American Inc. and Altria (formerly Philip Morris) are highly taxed and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and over the past several years cigarette consumption has declined more rapidly than forecast by analysts and shareholders.

Electronic cigarettes have accounted for a significant portion of this reduction.

Last year, vaping products were touted as a free-market solution to a grave public-health problem.

Now we are hearing about 6 people who have died of vaping compared to the nearly 400,000 people each year that die from cigarette smoking.

There has to be something said about lack of context.

In Big Tobacco’s war on these innovative technology products, it’s not just adult smokers and ex-smokers who will suffer at the hands of misguided regulators and lawmakers. Most of the sales in the $1.5 billion vapor product market are taking place in the more than 5,000 specialty retail outlets “vape shops” across the country.

These new businesses are occupying what may otherwise be empty storefronts. They are also providing local jobs, paying sales and income taxes, and improving communities by helping reduce the toll from smoking.

Reynolds’s push for more-coercive taxation, burdensome regulations, and even bans on their competitors make sense, as no company wants to see its consumers switch to products it doesn’t sell.

President Trump is making a very bad decision and is basically trying to protect his friends in the tobacco lobby. The President needs to rethink what he is proposing as it is obvious that while trying to protect cigarette companies, he is eliminating consumer choice.

Written by Ron Patton

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