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Why The Real Culprit of The Vaping Crisis Can’t Be Labeled

By: Connor Garrett

With over 800 vaping-related illnesses, and 17 deaths, the vaping crisis is in full swing. Early research from the CDC notes that nearly 80 percent of those 800 patients nationwide were 34 or younger. Nearly a fifth of those users were below 18 years old. It’s a problem that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Despite growing concerns, researchers haven’t come to a consensus about the exact cause of crisis. The only thing anyone can agree on is that it’s difficult to nail down one specific reason why this is happening.

Researchers have listed a number of possible causes, including:

  • -The wide segment of the population that vapes
  • -The variety of devices
  • -The number of additives and ingredients vaped
  • -The growth of vaping

It was previously suggested that “lipid pneumonia,” or an accumulation of oil buildup in the lungs could be the root, however, biopsies are revealing that the injuries appear to be related to direct tissue damage — likely from toxic chemical fumes. But that only hints at the real culprit, the one possible cause I didn’t list above simply because it deserves a deeper explanation.

CanIDeal, the first fully legal B2B e-commerce platform for the cannabis industry, including vaping products, is perhaps the counter to the core problem. Often times, the free market and the free flow of information and choice is the best way to affect change. As you’ll see later on this article, CanIDeal enables the users to regulate their own consumption. Knowledge is power and without the knowledge of what the user is consuming, they are at the mercy of the black market.

The deadly role of the black market in the vaping crisis

As the CDC has continued to recommend avoiding e-cigarette or vaping products, government agencies have apparently been listening. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the decision to remove flavored devices from the e-cigarette market. 

For years, the vaping market has essentially been unregulated. Under the new set of rules imposed by the FDA, all e-cig manufacturers are required to apply for a license from the agency to market their products. As of the time of this article, no manufacturer has applied. The FDA has given notice that these products will only be allowed to stay on shelves until May 2020 if the applications are not filed. In an ironic twist, however, the attempt to regulate the vaping industry is feared to drive users into the black market. A recent poll showed that 59% of the surveyed agree a ban on vaping will push more users to the unregulated black market. Furthermore, many tobacco-control researchers are concerned that banning flavors could sway adults from using e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking. Up to eighty percent of adults say that flavored vapes have been essential for their smoking cessation attempts. 

While patients span across 46 states so far, the majority of the Illinois and Wisconsin patients reported they used prefilled cartridges from “informal sources.” A large number of companies, or “manufacturers, if you will, are simply slapping a recognizable label on product to give it an iota of legitimacy when in fact they operate a counterfeit brand. NBC News recently reported that ten out of ten black market cartridges were tested for pesticides — all were positive and contained myclobutanil, a fungicide that can turn into hydrogen cyanide when it reaches its burning point. Startled by the initial findings, NBC commissioned a leading testing facility to examine 15 black market cartridges. In addition to pesticides, 13 contained vitamin E. While not particularly harmful as a nutritional supplement or put on the skin, when inhaled, the oil-like properties of vitamin E are reminiscent of the symptoms researchers had speculated was caused by lipid pneumonia. 

The black market continues to grow through word of mouth, which causes certain unregulated mixtures to become trendy only adding to the prevalence of the issue. As long as vape cartridges exist, homemade concoctions of liquids and flavoring chemicals will continue to be packaged and sold. The question is how to drive consumers towards regulated markets or how to help create a regulated market that doesn’t exist quite yet — well, it does, but on a single platform.

Why information and regulation, not banning vaping, is the solution

The early rush to judgment caused many agencies and individuals to generalize about vaping products. While cigarettes and alcohol kill at apocalyptic rates, the relatively young vaping market is susceptible to sensationalism because it is so new and the research is just beginning to provide much-needed answers. 

Just as alcohol and tobacco endured, vaping will too. And just as Prohibition created a black market and the bootlegging profession, the same will happen with vaping. Instead of fighting the inevitable, it’s better to enable users to make informed decisions. The CDC, FDA, and various government organizations are conducting research and working towards regulating and enacting policy. However, it still all boils down to consumer behavior, convenience, and making sure that information is readily available as buyers make their purchases. Consider, for instance, what an Amazon for the vaping industry might look like.

Amazon initially serviced book lovers and has since gone on to become the start of consumer search with nearly half of all online purchases originating on the e-commerce juggernaut. Part of the reason for this success, in addition to their mastery of logistics, are the ratings and reviews that allow consumers to feel safe with purchasing decisions. 

Much like Amazon, CanIDeal, the first fully legal B2B e-commerce platform for the cannabis industry, provides consumers with ratings, reviews, and insights into each and every product — including vaping items. To counteract the darkness of the black market, the industry needs to shine a light on it by informing consumers about which products are legitimate and safer to consume. In the same vein as Amazon, Uber, and Alibaba, CanIdeal simply serves as the middleman for buyers and sellers. Middlemen depend on the quality of transactions completed on their platform, which ensures that buyers and sellers are essentially vetted by their fellow users.

While the black market behind the vaping epidemic defies labeling, platforms like CanIDeal are the industry’s best avenue of taking the initiative to self-regulate. 

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