The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 12, 2019 1:00 am

Big Vape discards its guinea pigs

Nancy Cripe

The Truth Initiative's new campaign, “Don't Test on My Humans,” is tragically timely, as the 450 cases of vaping-related lung injury being investigated –  and now six deaths – make poignantly clear. Unregulated, uncontrolled, oversight-free testing on humans of profit-driven devices is exactly what is happening, generating big profits while putting lives at risk with no accountability.

The big cigarette companies did the same thing for more than a century: create a novel way to deliver the addictive drug nicotine, market it aggressively, manipulate it to make the hit more addicting, juice it up with sweet flavors that appeal to kids – all while never being forced to reveal ingredients or prove the products' safety before selling them. For decades they answered to no one for the illnesses and death their products caused. The same is happening with vaping products.

And just as Big Tobacco misrepresented its products as “healthy” and harmless for decades before finally being forbidden to do so, the vaping industry today misrepresents theirs with language of trafficking in harmless-sounding, sweet-tasting “vapor.” No one hears the truth: that in the aerosol cloud created by heating e-liquids, there are flavoring chemicals, solvents, emulsifiers, oils, toxins such as formaldehyde and acrolein, cancer-causing nitrosamines, heavy metals and lung-irritating particulate matter, none of which our lungs are made to handle.

Would anyone buy their products if they called it what it really is, “chemical aerosol?”

Unsuspecting young people are taking the marketing bait and are being sucked into serving as the industry's guinea pigs. These human test subjects are getting addicted at a rapid rate. Some are turning to also using cigarettes within 12 to 18 months of beginning to vape. Hundreds now lie in hospitals across 33 states, struggling to breathe and survive. Six have now lost their lives.

The preliminary results of this vast, uncontrolled, profit-driven experiment vape-users didn't know they signed up for are coming in, and they are not pretty. The industry, with so much to lose, is quick to dismiss these cases as outliers. “They were vaping marijuana, not nicotine,” they say. True in some cases, but not all. And even if it were, the fact remains that no one knows whether vaping anything is safe, period.

Should we be spending human lives to find out?

It is an old, tiresome story – industry treating humans as lab rats, getting them addicted, and whistling all the way to the bank with pockets full of profit flowing from people whose brains compulsively drive them to purchase again and again to stave off the pain of withdrawal.

Why did our policymakers and regulatory agencies allow these products to be sold without first making their manufacturers prove their safety? They let this industry grow, become powerful, hire lobbyists and merge with the immense power of the duplicitous, convicted racketeers of the conventional tobacco industry, all before asking them to pony up the facts about what is in their products or requiring safety testing.

And now 450 lives, if not more, hang in the balance. Six have died an ignoble, awful death of slow suffocation, their lungs inflamed and injured to the point that they can no longer take in oxygen.

This was preventable. We did not need another unregulated, highly addicting method of drug delivery.

Vaping enthusiasts love to counter, “But look at all the deaths from smoking,” as if it were a case of either/or. Are vapes safer than cigarettes? Most likely yes, though that remains to be fully proven.

But really now, is this the bar of safety we should be setting? Many, many dangerous things are safer than tobacco smoke.

That argument is a bit like saying jumping from the fourth floor is safer than jumping from the roof of a 50-story building. Thank you very much, but I'll take the stairs or elevator and walk out the front door.

Our lungs were built to take in oxygen, nothing more. And vaping is not needed for quitting. Millions of tobacco users have quit without vapes. Addicted smokers and chewers have bona fide, evidence-based, tested and proven support to help them move into recovery: highly regulated, safe medications; free Quitline phone coaching; cessation groups and classes; health insurers' support; employer reward programs; apps; online self-help programs; and text-to-quit programs. Not only have these been proven effective, none pump carcinogens, heart toxins, heavy metals, or poorly understood, untested chemicals into one's lungs and bloodstream.

Nancy Cripe is executive director of Tobacco Free Allen County.

Seeking help?
Help to quit is a phone call or a pharmacy visit away. 1-800-QUIT-NOW #ThisisQuitting Text DITCHJUUL to 887-09

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