COVID-19 closes thousands of ‘non-essential’ vape shops but cigarettes still easily available

It seems that every day, another state governor or city mayor is urging their citizens to shelter-in-place due to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.  Entire regions of the country are suggesting that all non-essential business shut down indefinitely, which unfortunately often includes vape shops.

During his daily news conference this morning on the coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he is closing all public playgrounds for the foreseeable future.  He also threatened to mandate an emergency law granting the police the legal authority to charge anyone who is not following the self-isolation guidelines.

Related Article:  FDA asks courts for PMTA deadline extension due to coronavirus outbreak

In many lawmakers’ eyes, essential businesses only include grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, Wall Street, and gas stations – the most common vendor-of-choice of combustible tobacco products. By leaving vape shops off the list, many public health experts are beginning to fear that the vaping community may be unwittingly lured back into the welcoming arms of Big Tobacco.

Italy banned vape shops, until Polosa convinced them otherwise.

One of the world’s deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 is occurring right now in Italy.  Many epidemiologists estimate that Italy is about 2-3 weeks ahead of the United States in their related attempts to flatten-of the curve of the coronavirus spread. 

On March 9, the Italian government put its entire population on immediate lockdown.  It was supposed to last until April 3 – just two days from now.  Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is reported to be considering a staggered re-opening of businesses later this week, but he could just as easily extend the lockdown for several weeks.

Related Article:  Polosa saves Italian vaping amid coronavirus outbreak; FDA suspends vape shop inspections

Luckily Italian vapers don’t have to worry about their local vape shops and e-commerce sites being closed throughout the crisis.  Although the Italian government initially considered vape shops to be non-essential businesses in the early days of the outbreak, Dr. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania came to their rescue. 

By coordinating with several federal agencies and top government officials, Polosa was successful in changing their minds to allow vape shops to remain open.  His reasoning was that closing them would cause vapers to relapse into smoking.  And the Italian government seems to have agreed.

Texas vape shop owner is fighting the system

At least one vape shop owner in San Antonio appears to share Dr. Polosa ’a view.  When Mayor Ron Nirenberg ordered certain businesses shuttered across the city last month, the proprietor of Texas Vape, Richard Tisdale, 81, discovered that he was expected to immediately close his doors.

According to Express News, Mr. Tisdale is refusing.  “People need vaping equipment to keep them from smoking cigarettes. We have soldiers who come in. And they’re under a lot of stress. And they need their vape.”

Tisdale is also using some rather creative strategies to help his customers get their vapes.  He initially started stocking hand sanitizer so that he could classify as an “essential” business, but that didn’t work out as planned.  Today, he allows his customers to come to the locked front door, knock, and wait for Tisdale or one of his employees to complete the transaction right on the doorstep.

Related Article:  Amid COVID-19 pandemic, CDC’s prior claims of vaping ‘epidemic’ even more suspect

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FDA asks courts for PMTA deadline extension due to coronavirus outbreak

 

On Monday, March 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a letter to the Maryland District Court requesting a 120-day extension to the impending deadline for the PreMarket Tobacco Applications (PMTA) process.  Per the FDA deeming regulations of 2016, these applications are required of all manufacturers for each vapor product to be offered to the public market.  Without an application already in the system by May 12 for federal review, the related product would need to be pulled immediately from store shelves.

The reason given by FDA’s Mitch Zeller, Director of the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), focuses on the many regional lockdowns occurring across the country due to the escalating coronavirus outbreak.  In the letter to the courts, FDA lawyers explain that due to a wide variety of state and local governments asking their citizenry to self-quarantine for several weeks or – in the case of the Commonwealth of Virginia – until at least June 10, many of the laboratories and organizations involved in the PMTA process will be suspending operations for the foreseeable future.  The civilian scientists employed by these laboratories are essential because they perform the necessary clinic studies that FDA officials will use to determine the approval or denial of each PMTA application.

Related Article:  In case you missed it: VTA sues FDA for ‘moving the goalposts’ of PMTA

Furthermore, the FDA letter continues, the agency itself is experiencing staffing issues of its own amid this national crisis.  Zeller’s CPT is currently reassigning many of its employees to various other federal agencies to help manage and coordinate the U.S. government’s pandemic response.  Other staff members are being asked to work remotely in an effort to adhere to the social distancing guidelines provided by the White House in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Moreover, as a result of the outbreak, some employees from the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) have been deployed to work for the U.S. Public Health Service, including many within one of the divisions of CTP’s Office of Science, which is responsible for reviewing premarket applications…Also, virtually the entire FDA staff responsible for reviewing premarket applications will be teleworking until further notice…While the FDA has taken steps to enable work to be performed remotely as much as possible, the agency anticipates that it will take additional time for a remote workforce to receive and process applications and conduct scientific review of those applications.”

This is not the first time that the FDA has extended the PMTA deadline.  In fact, this latest effort is not yet official until the Maryland District Court says so.  The current May 20 deadline was originally mandated by District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm in July 2019 after the American Academy of Pediatrics and other plaintiffs sued the FDA over the agency’s alleged refusal to set a definitive date.  On one occasion, the FDA pushed the PMTA deadline forward a full five years.  Per yesterday’s FDA letter to Judge Grimm, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports the FDA’s request for this latest 120-day extension.

Related Article:  Judge makes it official: Vape retailers have 10-months to submit PMTAs…or else

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Is NY’s Gov. Cuomo finally conceding that vaping is less harmful than smoking?

Amid the escalating outbreak of the coronavirus in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is said to be considering a six-week ban on the sales of combustible tobacco cigarettes.  In doing so, he hopes to flatten the curve and reduce the rising death count.  The ban could take effect as early as 11:59 PM tonight.  The smoking restrictions are expected to be included in a new budget measure scheduled to be announced today.

Surprisingly, the announcement is also expected to include a delay on the implementation of previously mandated restrictions on vaping products initiated last month and scheduled to go into effect this week.  The regulations would have made it more difficult for vapers to access electronic alternatives to combustible tobacco cigarettes. 

Related Article:  Ex-NY Mayor Bloomberg spends $160 million to kill vaping; Cuomo butt-kisses Bloomberg

Reading between the lines, the suspected forthcoming ban on tobacco cigarettes and the simultaneous delay of harsher vaping restrictions might be indicating that Governor Cuomo is softening his stance on vaping.  By not including vapor products in his proposed smoking ban, is the controversial New York politician finally conceding that vaping is safer than smoking?  Will Governor Cuomo become the first elected official in the U.S. to publicly confirm the validity of the 2016 research endorsed by the UK Royal College of Physicians that says vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking?

Governor Cuomo’s sorted past with vaping

In the early days of last year’s EVALI outbreak – a “vaping related” lung disorder later discovered to be attributed to black market THC cartridges – Governor Cuomo wasted no time in signing an anti-vaping emergency action intended to ban the sales of all flavored nicotine-based vape products statewide.  The Vapor Technology Association (VTA) in coordination with two vape shop chains, Perfection Vapes and Benevolent E-liquids Inc., immediately filed a lawsuit.  The plaintiffs claimed that the governor did not have the legal authority to systematically ban a commercial product that would threaten the closure of hundreds of New York vape shops.

In early October 2019, a New York appellate court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and temporarily blocked Cuomo’s emergency action.  However, Cuomo and his administration remained vigilant in their desire to eradicate the vaping industry throughout the state by taking their case to the state supreme court.  In January 2019, New York Supreme Court Justice Catherine Cholakis issued her ruling, upholding the lower court’s decision while striking down the Cuomo vaping ban permanently.

“Of course, nothing in this decision, order and judgment should be read as in any way trivializing the concern that the availability of flavored e-liquids may well be contributing to the spread of nicotine addiction among our youth.  Rather, this court’s holding on the present motion is limited to the recognition that there is a likelihood that petitioners (the vaping industry) will ultimately succeed in proving that the emergency regulation is an impermissible administrative transgression into territory that is reserved to our Legislature by the state Constitution, ” Judge Cholakis said in her official court ruling. 

Related Article:   Did a New York Supreme Court Justice just block Gov. Cuomo’s vape ban?

While Cuomo is believed to be giving vape products a free pass in the anticipated smoking ban regulations, many members of his administration are reportedly still pushing the governor behind the scenes to ban vapor products, as well.  Cuomo is also believed to be considering an additional line item that would suspend state sales taxes on conventional nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gums, and lozenges.

Is banning both smoking and vaping a good idea?

Cuomo faces a tough decision here.  If he bans both smoking and vaping, he will likely face considerable backlash from a New York citizenry that has already been on self-isolation lockdown for several weeks.  And just this weekend, President Trump extended the suggested coronavirus guidelines for another 30-days.  Banning smoking and vaping concurrently might tip an already over-stressed community over the proverbial edge. 

Related Article:   Hypocrite-in-Chief Cuomo’s 2020 plan: legalize pot, ban nicotine ‘vaping’ despite THC-lung deaths

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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, CDC’s prior claims of vaping ‘epidemic’ even more suspect

Until recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was spending enormous amounts of time and taxpayer dollars warning of the impending doom of a teen vaping “epidemic.” For over two years, CDC officials made ominous claims that vaping teenagers would eventually become addicted to smoking.  The science proved otherwise, and yet they continued to spread this disinformation.

Then came the mysterious outbreak of “vaping related” lung injuries during the autumn and winter of 2019-2020.  Again, the CDC spend months vilifying the nicotine-based vapor industry even though the science had already identified the true culprit – black market THC-enhanced cartridges laced with vitamin E acetate.

Vaping is not an infectious disease.

The first concern – teen vaping as an “epidemic” – has nothing whatsoever to do with infectious disease which is the CDC’s sole responsibility (as is clearly reflected in the agency’s nomenclature).  The second concern – the mysterious lung disorders which the CDC would eventually nickname EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury) does involve a medical condition, but it is not a contagious disease caused by a virus or other microorganism.  Should the CDC have been involved in either of these “vaping related” issues?

Related Article:  Renowned epidemiologist debunks FDA claims of teen vaping ‘epidemic’

Some public health experts are beginning to wonder.  Why was the CDC spending so much time and effort demonizing the American vapor industry when epidemiologists had been warning of a global COVID-19 pandemic since at least December 2019?  Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told Sentinel and Enterprise that it’s not uncommon for government agencies to exploit public health crises for financial and political gain.

As unfortunate as this sounds, Minton contends that the heads of these agencies are in direct competition with one another for the limited, congressionally-approved funds which are initially assigned by the president, either democrat or republican.  As such, they are desperate to “score political points” at almost any cost.

“The core purpose of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to control and prevent the spread of infectious disease. But a close look at how CDC spends its budget reveals it has strayed from this mission of protecting Americans from communicable diseases, turning more toward influencing people’s lifestyle choices…

“Novel as COVID-19 is, there’s nothing new about exploiting a crisis to expand budgets and score political points. Similar claims of inadequate funding were made during the 2014 outbreak of Ebola, for which various health agencies got an additional $5.4 billion.”

Related Article:  With a whimper not a bang, CDC finally closes the case on ‘vaping related’ EVALI

Meanwhile, Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine is also questioning the CDC’s priorities before and after the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.  In a March 16 article, Sulllum says that the agency’s “scaremongering tactics” surrounding teen vaping may have forever damaged its credibility involving its COVID-19 response.  As America’s medical community screams for more masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), average citizens are now beginning to notice that the CDC seems to have been completely unprepared for the virus – even though it was first identified in China several months ago.

“We have to hope that the CDC’s COVID-19 recommendations are more scientifically grounded than its initial scaremongering about e-cigarettes. I assume they are. But when public health agencies stray beyond their central mission and allow moral panics to affect their advice, they undermine the public trust that is vital at a time like this.”

Minton and Sullen stress that the conversation surrounding the competences or inadequacies of the CDC’s coronavirus or EVALI responses is not a political issue. Regardless of republican or democratic administrations, politicians, bureaucrats, and academics are always debating public health issues and fighting for government money.  Minton specifically states that “The failure is not of any single administration, agency or Congress. The blame rests with all of them.”

Related Article:  Polosa saves Italian vaping amid coronavirus outbreak; FDA suspends vape shop inspections

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3 Recent anti-vaping myths and the scientists that debunk them

In the summer of 2019, the mainstream media began spreading disinformation suggesting that conventional nicotine-based vapes were the cause of a mysterious lung ailment plaguing the nation.   The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named the disorder EVALI, an acronym standing for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.  Even though the outbreak of lung injuries were largely being reported only in the United States, the CDC pushed this false narrative for months.

Public health experts like Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health almost immediately began shouting from the rooftops that the CDC was misidentifying the true culprit – black market THC-containing products illegally laced with vitamin E acetate.  After several months of misinforming the general public (and multiple deaths), the CDC was finally forced to acknowledge the obvious.  In a February 25 press release, the CDC stated the following.

“Due to continued declines in new EVALI cases since September 2019, and the identification of vitamin E acetate as a primary cause of EVALI, today’s release is the final biweekly CDC update on the number of hospitalized EVALI cases and deaths nationally. CDC will continue to provide assistance to states, as needed, related to EVALI and will provide future updates as needed at: www.cdc.gov/lunginjury.”

Unlike the circumstances surrounding the initial outbreak, the mainstream media remained relatively silent in their reporting of this latest chapter in the EVALI saga.  So, a larger percentage is still under the mistaken impression that vaping kills.  Unfortunately, his type of journalistic malpractice is usually the norm when it comes to the American vaping industry. 

Related Article: With a whimper not a bang, CDC finally closes the case on ‘vaping related’ EVALI

Over the years, anti-vaping activists have floated one conspiracy theory after another, each of which has garnered a significant amount of alarm and notoriety in the national news outlets.  And just like with the EVALI scandal, journalists rarely report when the allegations are proven to be grossly inaccurate or perhaps even outright lies.  Here are two additional anti-vaping allegations that attracted widespread media attention – and the scientists who successfully debunked them.

Anti-vaping myth #2:  Vaping causes heart attacks

In June 2019, news outlets were going bonkers when a “researcher” by the name of Stanton Glantz published a report that claimed, “vaping causes heart attacks.”   Because the paper came with such an attention-grabbing headline and was endorsed by the American Heart Association, news reporters felt accusation had credibility.  So, they ran with it.

Related Article:  Tobacco expert Brad Rodu debunks latest ‘vaping causes heart attacks’ study

However, Dr, Brad Rodu – a world class scientist and tobacco analysist from the University Of Kentucky – insisted that the Glantz study was pure fiction.  Rodu discovered that a large percentage of the patients involved with the experimental research had experienced their cardiac episodes long before they started vaping.  Months later, the medical journal which published the Glantz paper was forced to issue a retraction, claiming the “editors are concerned that the study conclusion is unreliable.”

Anti-vaping myth #3:  Vaping causes COPD

In December 2019, Glantz was at it again.  This time, his research paper centered around the allegation that vaping increases the chances of being diagnosed with respiratory disorders like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).  Never mind that the notorious Glantz failed to conduct comparative analysis between vaping and smoking, but he also failed to document the prior smoking histories of his participants in experimental research. 

Once again, the mainstream media – including CNN, in USA Today – picked up the story and ran with it.  Yet, Dr. Michael Siegel called the allegations, “not even plausible.”  On his website, The Rest of the Story: Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary, Siegel tore the Glantz study to shreds. 

“It is not even plausible that e-cigarette use could cause COPD within three years. Even with heavy smoking, it takes decades before a person develops COPD. If you walk into a respiratory intensive care unit, you’re not going to find a lot of COPD patients in their 30s or even 40s. So if it takes at least three decades of smoking to develop COPD, how is a person supposed to develop COPD from e-cigarettes in only three years?…
  
“This evidence demonstrates that the truth is the opposite of what is being reported here. E-cigarette use is not a cause of chronic lung disease. On the contrary, it helps improve respiratory health among smokers who are able to quit completely using these products.”
 

Siegel also blasted the “Vaping causes COPD” research for failing to include a control group of participants who were never smokers. The public health expert was so alarmed at the level of scientific incompetence behind the Glantz report that we warned on Twitter and other forms of social media, “Vapers Beware: New Study Does NOT Show that E-Cigarettes Cause Chronic Lung Disease.”

Related Article: Study saying vaping causes lung disease ‘not even plausible,’ says Siegel

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Did you know that switching to vaping can boost physical energy & mental clarity?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there concerning the many health benefits of switching to vaping from smoking.  Over the years, the vaping community has been forced to defend itself against bogus allegations that e-cigs are a gateway to combustible tobacco smoking and false rumors that its vapor is secretly laced with formaldehyde.

Anti-vaping lobbyists also fail to mention that the UK’s Royal College of Physicians says that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking.  Vaping haters also seem to ignore the scientific fact that it’s the burning of tobacco leaves that produces the highly carcinogenic smoke that is so very deadly.  The e-liquids in vapor products, however, are 100% tobacco-free.

Related Article:  Polosa saves Italian vaping amid coronavirus outbreak; FDA suspends vape shop inspections

Tar is another hidden enemy of conventional tobacco cigarettes.  Also only produced from the burning of tobacco leaves, tar’s thick, gooey texture clogs the arteries and coats the lungs and airways.  It’s the ingestion of tar-filled smoke produced from tobacco leaves that leads to multiple smoking-related illnesses, including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory disorders.

Why is everyone switching from smoking to vaping?

There are many, many reasons to make the switch to vaping.  Besides being a safer and cleaner alternative to smoking, it’s also cheaper, causes smokers to vape less than they smoke, and allows the smokers to modulate their nicotine intake with just a click of a button.  There’s also a wider variety of e-liquid flavors compared to traditional cigarettes, and the resulting vapor does not saturate the clothing and furnishings like that of tobacco smoke. 

But there is another significant benefit to making the switch, one that rarely gets covered in the mainstream media.  While the timeline will vary slightly depending on the vaping habits of the user, most novice vapers experience a noticeable improvement in physical energy and stamina very shortly after making the switch.  They also often boast of having a greater sense of mental clarity and concentration capabilities.

All of a sudden, novice vapers are no longer satisfied with just sitting around the house and watching television.  They want to get out, go for a walk, go shopping with friends, or maybe even head to the gym for the first time in months.  The reason for this change in energy levels is simple. 

Related Article:  Research shows propylene glycol vapor kills airborne influenza virus

The products manufactured by Big Tobacco are packed with thousands of added chemicals, many of which are highly carcinogenic.  These chemicals not only keep smokers addicted, but they also pollute the human body, which leaves smokers feeling energy-depleted and toxic even if they don’t realise it.  The tar-filled smoke also seeps into the lungs, which makes it more difficult for smokers to breath even when completing the most minor of physical tasks, like walking up stairs.

The e-liquids used in vaping are manufactured from only three primary ingredients, all of which are FDA-approved:  Propylene glycol (a sweetener often found in ice creams), vegetable glycerin (a sweet, odorless substance used in toothpastes and baked goods like Entenmann’s pastries), and artificial flavorings  E-liquids do NOT contain formaldehyde, the thousands of added chemicals of tobacco cigarettes, nor the tar and hundreds of carcinogens derived from burnt tobacco leaves.

So, for smokers looking for an excuse to give vaping a try, consider the energy boost and increased mental clarity that comes with making the switch.  For some vapers, the change can become apparent in as little as a few hours to perhaps a few days.  But no dual usage is allowed. 

Related Article:  Why vaping studies involving animals ‘have limited value’ in predicting human health effects

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Polosa saves Italian vaping amid coronavirus outbreak; FDA suspends vape shop inspections

As the number of coronavirus infections continue to escalate, the vaping community is facing a difficult challenge.   Many mayors of local communities are implementing citywide lockdowns of all local and non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, and even vapes shops.

Many governors are enforcing similar restrictions statewide.  Just this morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order while telling his constituents during a live press conferences, “New York is on pause.”

The United States is not the first nation to undergo such harsh lockdown procedures.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte placed his entire nation on in-home self-quarantine until at least April 3.  The new regulations mean that only essential businesses like pharmacies and grocery stores can remain in operation.  Vape shops in Italy, however, would be forced to close for several weeks, leaving hundreds of thousands of Italian vapers in the lurch.

Luckily, pro-vaping advocate Dr. Riccardo Polosa came to their rescue.  According to an article in Filter Magazine, the Professor of Internal Medicine and specialist of Respiratory Diseases and Clinical Immunology at the University of Catania began issuing a series of “declarative statements” in the mainstream media.  He repeatedly stated his firm belief that closing all vape shops would be detrimental to overall public health.

Related Article:  Farsalinos, Polosa blast recent report claiming vaping causes lipoid pneumonia

Polosa also contacted the nation’s top vaping advocacy organization, the National Association for Electronic Smoking (NAES), where he solicited their help in contacting “political links and connections with the government.” On March 13, their collaborative hard work finally paid off when the Italian Prime Minister in cooperation with the Ministry of Health revised their lockdown restrictions to exempt vape shops completely.

Things are not that dire in American – yet.  And the legality of the President of the United States having the authority to place the entire country on lockdown is currently in debate in some political circles.   But American vape shops are being granted a smidgen of relief by the federal government.  According to Reuters, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has agreed to suspend inspections of vape shops nationwide until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Related Article:  Polosa: Mysterious rise in lung disease among Wisconsin vapers ‘very suspicious’

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