With the prospect of a unilateral ban hanging in the air, some concerned citizens have been stockpiling a soon-to-be-scarce resource: Flavored vape juice.
CNN reports the panicked bulk ordering of candy-tasting cartridges (your Pebbles Cheesecake, your Strawberry Jam Monster, etc. etc.) almost resembles the frenzied hoarding of weapons among gun rights advocates in the wake of a perceived Second Amendment challenge. And while two states, Michigan and New York, have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges, President Donald Trump seems to be readying himself to jump onto the bandwagon, with the FDA having announced coming regulations for manufacturers of flavored cartridges. Legislation has also been introduced in Congress, seeking to ban flavored vape juice, an idea that has bipartisan support.
Still, some lawmakers expect vape companies will find ways around the FDA's rules: On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told amNY that his "great worry" was that the administration would introduce "vanilla" restrictions that ultimately fail to keep the product out of minors' hands.
"When the industry pressures the administration, that will make the loopholes too big. In practice, these loopholes always have a way of expanding," he said. Referring to the gummy bear-type options, he added: "Those flavors shouldn’t be on shelves, and so the federal ban needs to be framed around that premise or it won’t be as effective, and it will easily circumvent local bans that states are proposing and passing."
Firearms historian Mike Helms told CNN that extreme e-cig hoarders probably represent a small sector of all vape users, but nonetheless: "Bans often inspire a knee-jerk reaction from the people they affect the most," he said. "Vaping is not protected in the Bill of Rights, certainly not in the same way that guns are."
The legal vulnerability of e-cig flavors is very distressing to adults whose sophisticated palates demand dessert vapes, but lawmakers' war on these super-sweet liquids appears motivated more by teen users. Underage vaping rates have skyrocketed in recent years, a phenomenon many have attributed to e-cig manufacturers' apparent targeting of adolescents. Discussing his his executive order banning most flavored e-cigs in New York State last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo called out flavors like "bubble gum, cotton candy, [and] Scooby Doo," which don't seem to have been concocted with adult smokers in mind — pre-addicted smokers looking to quit might logically gravitate toward Menthol or Virginia Tobacco, two Juul varieties that (for now) remain legal in New York. But mango, forget about it.
The bans come amid widespread confusion over the safety of vaping, full stop. So far, seven people have died and hundreds more have been sickened with a mysterious, apparently vape-related lung disease. Experts believe the disease to be linked to counterfeit THC cartridges that use Vitamin E as a thickening agent, but still: Common sense says that, however delightful you may find the practice, breathing chemical vapor into your lungs probably won't do great things to your pulmonary and respiratory systems. But the possibility of Big Government coming for e-cigs seems to have inspired libertarian-sounding rhetoric in certain corners of the vaping community.
"It's a moral imperative to disobey unethical laws," Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told CNN. Explaining that he supports the effort among the nicotine-addicted to amass as much of their preferred alternative ahead of a flavor blackout, Conley added: "These are the type of hardcore former smokers who if they can't access nicotine in a way that they enjoy, they are heavily at risk to going back to smoking."
And yes, there is some research to suggest that making vapes unavailable might lead addicted e-cig users — whether they are Juul-loving teens or adults already hooked on nicotine — to simply pick up traditional cigarettes.
So, you know, you can take our mango Juul pods but you cannot take our freedom.