E-cigarettes Not Upholding Safety Promises

E-cigarettes seemed to sweep in a few years ago with the promise of a safe, smokeless alternative to real cigarettes. You didn't inhale the smoke, so all those cancer causing toxins never made it to your lungs. Even better, switching flavors just meant switching which liquid you used instead of having to buy a whole new pack of smokes. Vaping was to become the new, safe way to maintain a now harmless nicotine addiction.

Except things haven't turned out so rosy.

First, there is the lesser issue of e-cigarette hardware itself. Hooking up a high-capacity battery to to a heating element that is used to warm potentially flammable liquids has, unsurprisingly, caused accidents. The battery inside an e-cig is more or less the same as the ones that power our smartphones. Modern batteries store a lot of energy in a small space, and if anything goes wrong that energy gets released as an uncontrolled jet of flames and burning plastics instead of a nice steady flow of electrons. Just ask Samsung, who had to recall every single one of their Galaxy Note 7 phones a few years back. Or talk to the makers of battery-powered self-balancing "hoverboards" whose quality control was so bad across the board that they were outright banned in the UK because their batteries were such a fire risk.

Two notable reports of e-cig fires include a young man who was caught on store video as his pocket burst into flames, and a lawyer who had to rush out of a courtroom when one of the spare batteries he had in his pocket began smoldering.

E-cigs aren't exploding left, right, and center, but poorly made or poorly maintained e-cigarettes certainly can become a fire risk.

The second, more notable issue of e-cigarettes is the notion that they separate the act of smoking from the harmful chemicals that come with normal cigarettes seems to be incorrect. Vaping has now been linked to several hundred cases of sicknesses and severe lung injuries spread across the nation. E-cigarettes may not have the outrageous amount of harmful chemicals that a traditional cigarette has, but the smoke inhaled from vaping can apparently still be very dangerous. Some doctors are even going so far to say that the damage done by smoking an e-cigarette reminds them of the effects of actual chemical weapons such as mustard gas!

The issues seems to be one of chemical choice and quality control at vaping companies such as Juul. This year, that company was all but forced to remove several of its vaping flavors from stores across the US. Juul is also now tangled up in a whistleblower lawsuit brought against it by one of its former vice presidents of global finance. Siddharth Breja, the vp in question, is claiming that the vaping company ignored the expiration dates of its own products and cut corners to keep up with demand after it was forced to stop selling some of its products.

Any way you look at it, the promise of a safe, non-toxic, high-tech future of smoking delivered by e-cigarettes seems to be going up in smoke.

Vaping-related Illnesses Spread With Cause Still Unknown

Vaping and E-cigrettes are becoming a serious problem according to the Food and Drug Administration. The government organization has opened a criminal investigation into a wave of more than 530 reported illness that came as a result of vaping. According to Politico, the director of the Centers for Disease Control is "very concerned" about the sharp increase in vaping-related illnesses.

The reports, so far, are making it hard to track down the exact cause since those becoming sick are spread across at least 38 states and not everyone is using the same set of products or vaping liquids in their e-cig.

So far, the FDA thinks that the fault may not lie with the design of the e-cigs or the intended chemical makeup of individual vaping liquids, but might be with a lack of consistency or care somewhere in the supply chain. "There may be a problem with source material or modification that may be occurring at different places," a CDC official said.

Unfortunately, right now the causes are not known and may not be known for weeks or months. The fast growing vaping industry may be subject to additional regulation in the future, but for now, the safest bet is to only buy vaping supplies from a reliable source or hold off vaping all together until a root cause to these illnesses can be found.

Purdue Pharma Carries Out Bankruptcy Threat

In the latest news about the Sackler family that owns and operates Purdue Pharma, we have a pair of stories, one leading to the other. Both show just scheming this drug company has been and even still is as it faces intense government and public scrutiny. 

First on August 27th, there were widespread reports that Purdue Pharma, which was working with national and state government to settle its outstanding opioid abuse claims, made the bold statement that if it could not get all its accusers to settle on a favorable agreement it would declare bankruptcy which would make it so that it did not have to pay the same damages it would have otherwise. This was basically a “do it our way, or we will do everything we can to avoid as much responsibility as possible.” The pronouncement came from one of the companies that was allowing doctors of small cities to prescribe sometimes hundreds of more pills, per person, than were necessary.

Filing for bankruptcy would protect Purdue Pharma from some of its debts and help shield it from angry prosecutors and customers. Naturally, state prosecutors did not simply back down because the company they were after was setting up legal roadblocks. Unfortunately, Purdue Pharma did exactly what it said it would do. 

On September 15, the drug maker followed up on its threat to declare bankruptcy, but only after its controlling family started moving large sums of money overseas. The New York attorney general said that it was keeping tabs on wire transfers made back the Sacklers that added up to at least a billion dollars. With the money safely moved, the bankruptcy could then be declared while shielding much of that money from national and state claims. The Sacklers claim that all the transfers, some of which bounced through iconic Swiss bank accounts, were perfectly normal. 

On one hand, it is good to see that law enforcement agencies have begun to put major pressure on opioid makers, but the options these companies have available to them when trying to avoid responsibility for the epidemic they caused.