This week Good Morning America (GMA) reported the Surgeon General declared “vaping” to be an epidemic among teenagers, and there are few treatment options. What GMA and the Surgeon General failed to say is cigarettes, vaping and the current e-cigarettes are more addicting than heroin. How do I know this? For 20 years nicotine and smokeless cigarettes were my business. I coined the terms “vape” and “vaping.”
This is the story of the sinister plot between the Federal government and the “Big Six” tobacco companies to put the first smokeless cigarette out of business because it wasn’t in their best interest.
Before the current e-cigarettes (users inhale high doses of nicotine and exhale copious clouds of vapor) there was FAVOR Smokeless Cigarettes, a revolutionary cigarette. In the early 1980’s FAVOR was invented, patented and developed by my first husband, the late Jon Philip Ray, founder of Datapoint Corporation which invented the first desktop computer and the microprocessor. Because users didn’t have to light FAVOR– it contained small amounts of nicotine vapor users inhaled, and there was no exhaled particulate matter–I named it “the vape” and users were “vaping” not smoking. I also named our product, FAVOR Smokeless Cigarettes as in “Do yourself a Favor,” and “Do your friends a Favor” by not smoking combustible cigarettes.
Our commercial for Favor Smokeless Cigarettes that ran on television.
Although nicotine is more addicting than heroin, it’s the 2,000 by-products of burning—not the nicotine—that are carcinogenic. FAVOR Smokeless Cigarettes were designed to be a better alternative to smoking combustible cigarettes. In a perfect world and with the consumer’s best interest at heart, the health and social implications of a “smokeless cigarette” that doesn’t cause cancer or pollute the atmosphere would be a good thing.
But in this instance it wasn’t a perfect world, but one ruled by sheer greed.
Before we conducted countless focus group studies, raised venture capital and took our company, Advanced Tobacco Products, Inc., public on the NY Stock Exchange, we first conducted medical studies with “the vape” and human users. Our study became the cover story for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The cover photograph was an arm wrapped with a tourniquet and a lit cigarette held close to a bulging vein.
The unprecedented message from the respected JAMA was clear: Nicotine is a drug.
Because combustible cigarettes were deadly and smoking was being banned from public places and FAVOR solved both problems, Wall Street predicted we’d all be billionaires. Even though everyone concerned knew there were huge risks about whether the Feds and the Big Six would let us market FAVOR, it was a risk we were all willing to take. While our product looked like a cigarette, you inhaled it like a cigarette—but you didn’t light it—it slipped through the cracks of the legal definition of a cigarette. And therein was the risk. Why?
Follow the money trail.
Because FAVOR didn’t meet the legal definitions of a cigarette, the government couldn’t collect any tax from the sales to consumers. On the other hand consumers are taxed on the sale of combustible cigarettes. The taxes on Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) are the government’s second largest revenue source. (The income tax you and I pay is the largest.) If FAVOR were successful it could pose a major loss to the government’s income stream. And if that wasn’t a big enough risk factor for the Feds to find a way to shut us down, FAVOR stood to publicly underscore that the Big Six were knowingly selling an addicting drug, over-the-counter. And because we didn’t meet the legal definition of a cigarette, legally, we could advertise FAVOR on TV while combustible cigarettes weren’t allowed to advertise on television. That was a conversation starter among consumers!
It wasn’t long before we felt the wrath of the Big Six, the Feds and their goons. They’re akin to the mob, and they don’t play nice with others.
FAVOR Smokeless Cigarettes were selling well, and consumers liked them, but as soon as our distributors put them on retail shelves, the Big Six’s powerful cigarette distributors removed them. At the same time men in suits, driving four-door Chevy’s, started loading our personal garbage into the trunk of their car. A burly guy hurdled over our tall locked gate and knocked on our front door. He said he had it “on good authority the people in this house better watch their step… They need a bodyguard.” He then left the same way he came. In the middle of the night three men in suits broke into our house and my husband’s lab. My husband was asleep… more like passed out. I was not. I confronted them with a loaded gun, and they fled. The next day our attorneys and major investors saw to it we had bodyguards. Here are my diary entries from that time.
Because our VP of Marketing was the former President of RJ Reynolds International, we had a reliable backchannel of information. The Big Six and the ATF put their greedy, symbiotic heads together about how to get rid of FAVOR Smokeless Cigarettes. We knew we were going to upset an entire industry and what is nothing short of legal, over-the-counter drug dealing and its staggering profit stream.
So it didn’t come as a surprise when the ATF sent us a letter, demanding we withdraw our product from the marketplace—because we were selling a “new drug”—or they would slap us with an injunction and shut us down. Devastating words for a public company and its shareholders. The letter also said FAVOR “is a nicotine delivery system intended to satisfy nicotine dependence… and because of its intended uses, FAVOR is a drug as defined within section 201(g) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” Seriously? The Feds were talking out of both sides of their mouth! All tobacco products contain nicotine, and nicotine is a drug… So why weren’t/aren’t Marboros considered a drug and restricted from selling them over-the-counter?
I’ll say it again… Follow the money trail.
Good Morning America also reported that JUUL–the most popular e-cig with teenagers–has taken steps to eliminate enticing flavors like mango, mint and cream. Publicly they’re sounding concerned about teenage users, saying “underage usage is completely unacceptable to us… ”
I’m calling bullshit on this.
Not only are their refills cleverly flavored to appeal to teenagers; they look exactly like a USB flash drive and deliver higher, more concentrated doses of nicotine than any combustible cigarette, other e-cig, or amounts of nicotine FAVOR Smokeless Cigarettes ever dreamed of delivering.
The same day this week GMA featured their story, December 20, 2018, Altria, formerly Phillip Morris Companies—one of the Big Six—acquired a 35% stake in JUUL Labs for $13 Billon. $2 Billion of this will be split between the company’s 1,500 company workers.
The fox is in the henhouse, and there’s big money in selling drugs.
I know—for a medical fact—nicotine is more addicting to people under 18 with undeveloped brains. I also know—for a business fact—the Big Six’s motto is “Hook ‘em when they’re young, and you’ll have a customer for life.”
If you doubt the intentions and morals of the Big Six and the twisted response of the Feds, remember Dr. Jeffrey Weigan, former VP of R&D for Brown & Williamson tobacco company? In 1999, Dr. Weigan courageously testified before Congress—they labeled him a “whistleblower”—about how the Big Six intentionally manipulated their tobacco blends with chemicals to increase the “effect” of nicotine. Translated that means to get you addicted quicker… like the concentrated doses in JUUL. Wigand later gave an interview to Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes. Marie Brenner subsequently wrote a Vanity Fair article, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” which was made into an Academy Award-nominated film, The Insider, with Russel Crowe and Al Pacino. While the Feds and the Big Six tried to discredit Dr. Weigand and suppress his 60 Minute interview, he and his family received death threats and a bullet in their mailbox.
I know that kind of terror!
So Good Morning America… Cecilia Vega and Juju Chang… This story is more than an epidemic among our teenagers and a lack of treatment. How are you going to followup on this sham of public concern from JUUL, the tobacco companies and the Feds? Our health and that of our children depend on it.