Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks with the owner of a local vape shop about the controversy surrounding e-cigarettes nationwide.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to in-depth: The controversy surrounding e-cigarettes takes another turn today. The leading e-cig company in America will stop selling flavors. Critics they say are popular with young vapers. Only tobacco, mint and menthol flavors will remain for sale in retail stores. And only in states that still allow the sale of vaping products. Juul is also pulling the plug on a large part of its advertising. We have reported rising lung illness rates health officials say are being by some vaping products. 33 deaths have been reported nationwide, including Indiana and Illinois. Joining me tonight is Brad Bodart. He owns two local vaping shops called TKO Vapor. And Brad, you’re telling me you’re taking issue with the very first thing I said in this in-depth segment – the report itself – tell me what bothers you about that?
Brad Bodart: It’s not vaping products leading to the poisonings. It’s black market products leading to the poisonings. If a bad batch of heroin came out, you wouldn’t report that there was a needle problem in America.
Brad Byrd: With that being said though, how does the local shop fit into this picture? What do you sell?
Brad Bodart: I sell adult nicotine to former smokers. These are the types of devices we sell in our stores. These are the devices manufactured by tobacco companies that are sold in gas stations and third party online. These are the devices that children are vaping. These are not the devices that I sell.
Brad Byrd: Basically, this all started when you refer to the Juul products in what 2016?
Brad Bodart: Vapor has been global for 12 years. It’s been in Evansville since Sept. 3rd, 2011, when I helped open the first vapor store in the region. The youth surge of vaping started in 2016. Multiple vapors have been available for 12 years, what changed in 2016, these small compact, easily concealed, incredibly high nicotine devices sold in all ages retail stores, like gas stations.
Brad Byrd: And black-market products, they wouldn’t end up in your shop?
Brad Bodart: No.
Brad Byrd: Tell me what the nicotine levels are in the products sold at your shops.
Brad Bodart: The vast majority of the products we sell have three milligrams per milliliter. Or at least that’s the goal to get most customers – those we can’t get all the way to zero.
Brad Byrd: Why is that? Why three milligrams, is that a safe level?
Brad Bodart: It’s a miniscule level. It’s enough to hit the throat when you vaporize – to remind you of the sensations you used to get from smoking a cigarette.
Brad Byrd: Is this a new version of sensation products at least from your point of view. To get people off tobacco and they still have nicotine. I’m having a hard time processing that.
Brad Bodart: Nicotine is the addiction – tobacco, combusting tobacco is the cancer, the COPD, the emphysema.
Brad Byrd: But Nicotine can cause cardiovascular diseases – some health studies say it can cause digestive problems, reproductive issues.
Brad Bodart: That is true. And according to the royal college of physicians, the same world renown body that told Americans years before anyone in the US would listen or would force tobacco companies to acknowledge what was in their products, this same body is now telling us and has been telling us since 2016, that e-cigs are at least 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco. I and every other adult vapor in the U.S. believe it’s our choice to make that choice and take that 5% risk.
Brad Byrd: And there is that argument, by some people, that, that can lead to tobacco use by younger people if they start with just pure nicotine.
Brad Bodart: That’s not what the data shows.
Brad Byrd: What does it show?
Brad Bodart: What does the data show in terms of youth?
Brad Byrd: Yes.
Brad Bodart: I believe it was UMass that put out the study 8,200 individuals who do nicotine vapor do not go back to tobacco and do not go back to a dual-purpose vapor. But I will tell you what a bunch of adult vapor/nicotine users will be back to tobacco will be an absolute prohibition against our products.
Brad Byrd: And you’re saying by next year, vaping shops could be vaporized.
Brad Bodart: They will be vaporized. As it stands, the FDA pre-market tobacco analysis, which was part of the massive settlement agreement from 20 years ago, which was never applied to combustible tobacco, is being applied to us. What steps we have to go through to get our products have still never been completely laid out by the FDA, which is why the FDA had moved the deadline back to May 2022. To give themselves time to tell us what we need to do to get approved. A lawsuit filed by the campaign for tobacco free kids and financed by Michael Bloomberg, forced us to move that date up to 2020. Pres. Trump has threatened to move it up sooner, various state governors enacted emergency legislation. This process by low ball estimates will cost roughly half a million dollars per flavor to get approved to stay on the market.
Brad Byrd: What will you tell that young man or young woman, who are on the verge of becoming of legal age 18 in the state of Indiana – what advice would you give them? In a brief form. As far as, this is your choice, you’re taking any chances.
Brad Bodart: Don’t smoke, don’t vape, you don’t need it. I vape because I smoked for 21 years. But something that needs to be said, for instance, in 2019, so far in Indiana there have been 173 violations recorded of selling to minors, 3 of which were in adult vapor stores. In Evansville, dating back to 2011 when the FDA records first began, there had been 50/60 some odd violations – not a single one has been in an adult vapor store. Children are being sold to, children are being marketed to, they’re being sold Juul, Blue, Logic – all big tobacco company products. They are not being sold my products, they’re not being sold cool breezes, vapor banks, crush vapors, TNT’s product’s – and the campaign for tobacco free kids I keep writing to them, maybe they’ll see this and listen, we should be partners, we have the same goal. You folks who want to protect the youth, we’re after the same thing, I want to destroy Phillip Morris too. I keep getting blamed for illegal black-market products. I keep getting blamed for the marketing strategies of the tobacco companies going for your children. That’s not me, my father raised me right.
Brad Byrd: Brad Bodart, owner of TKO Vapor. We’ll talk again I’m sure as this story continues. Thank you for joining me tonight.
(This story was originally published on October 17, 2019)