Against the backdrop of a series of diseases and deaths among vape smokers that began in the United States a few months ago, American officials and manufacturers of electronic cigarettes are working together to find out the most likely causes of the epidemic. Donald Trump, meanwhile, announced an imminent ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in the country. The ban may not be effective, writes the Wall Street Journal, because in parallel with the legal market, the country has developed a black market for vapes – with underground production in Chinese factories and mixtures of unknown origin with marijuana.
Surveys by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that most affected smokers purchased e-cigarettes from unofficial dealers – friends, street vendors, or smugglers, who also offered cannabis-containing liquids to customers. At the same time, marijuana is officially legalized for recreational and medical purposes in only 30 US states. At least $ 5 billion worth of marijuana cartridges were sold this year alone, industry analyst firm BDS Analytics estimates. In comparison, nicotine e-cigarette sales are projected to reach $ 9 billion this year.
- Nearly 90% of those surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US reported more than 50 different vape brands that they used. Most often, they mentioned the name Dank Vapes – a kind of brand of cartridges with the addition of cannabioids, which is not officially released by any company.
- Unusual tastes are one of the reasons why American teens are addicted to vapes. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of students using e-cigarettes exceeded 2 million in 2017. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the spread of electronic cigarettes among middle and high school students has reached epidemic proportions. The most popular brand among schoolchildren was the manufacturer JUUL. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nearly 70% of teens said they started smoking vapes after they tasted their frozen strawberry cartridge. However, there is no such taste in the official JUUL line.
U.S. e-cigarette manufacturers point out that officials should focus on fighting the black vape market. According to them, it is illegal vapes and cartridges that are associated with numerous diseases among smokers, while the availability of safe options on the market from legal manufacturers will protect customers. Smokers themselves agree with them. “The ban will simply force people to circumvent the ban and buy the same vapes on the black market,” explains New York’s 32-year-old e-cigarette consumer, who recently bought $ 200 JUUL menthol liquid for vaping because he was scared of news about the ban on flavored cigarettes.
- To prove their case, large manufacturers like JUUL began to explore the counterfeit market on their own. It turned out that one of the main suppliers of fake vapes was the Chinese Internet retailer Alibaba. The site presents thousands of options for vapes and liquids that attract not only unusual tastes, but also design – with the heroes of animated series, video games and other popular characters. Some e-cigarettes vaguely resemble JUUL, but in fact there are no such products in the official line of the brand.
- JUUL said that most of the fakes come from factories in Chinese Shenzhen. As a rule, they are the size of an apartment, and employees work there in unsanitary conditions. For example, vape liquids are stored in large dusty vessels that stand on a dirty floor, and workers fill them manually and without gloves – with the help of plastic bottles.
- Local police raids revealed at least 17 illegal vape manufacturers in the area. According to their testimonies, at most points, attackers used typewriters in order to put the JUUL logo on products.
Ban on trade
In early September, Donald Trump announced plans to ban all flavored nicotine-free electronic cigarettes, including peppermint and menthol.
- Until now, vape was considered a less harmful form of smoking than nicotine cigarettes. They decided to fight vaping in the USA after Americans began to complain all together of fever, nausea and headaches. By early fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 1,000 confirmed or probable cases of lung disease in vapers in 38 states; 19 deaths were recorded in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon. The cause of the disease has not yet been established
- U.S. health officials are investigating these cases. At the time of the investigation, Americans are urged to stop smoking vapes.
- Common symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Many patients have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, as well as chills, fatigue, and weight loss. Sometimes the disease develops within a few days, sometimes within a few weeks. Most patients have a high white blood cell count – a sign that the immune system is weakened.
- Most diseases have developed over the past few months. The investigation examines several hypotheses about their causes. But all doctors agree that the lungs of patients were damaged as a result of chemical exposure when using vapors or an electronic cigarette.
Damage to manufacturers
The ban will affect the fast-growing market for electronic cigarettes. For example, the U.S. anticipated ban on flavored electronic cigarettes thwarted the merger of Philip Morris International (PMI) and Altria. A $ 200 billion deal would be the largest in the tobacco industry in three years.
- The most affected by the epidemic is the American company Juul Labs. In late September, her head, Kevin Burns, was forced to resign amid an ongoing massive series of diseases among smokers of electronic cigarettes in the United States. In early October, Juul founders Adam Bowen and James Monsiz lost their status as billionaires as the company fell sharply. They own 1.75% of Juul. After one of the company’s investors (hedge fund Darsana Capital Partners) wrote off more than a third of its investments, its value decreased by $ 14 billion – to $ 24 billion.