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The Importance of Getting Our Facts Straight.

The Importance of Getting Our Facts Straight.

  • Joe Picarella

 

As most of you know, we recently launched the LIV group on Facebook in response to the sweeping bans and the unrelenting campaign of misinformation that is spreading across the country at breakneck speeds..

 

For the most part, the formation of this group has been a massive success.

 

At the time of the writing of this post, we are sitting at just under 7,500 members despite the group only being about a month old.

 

And by and large, our members are amazing examples of why the vape community is so awesome.

 

However, since launching the group, it has become apparent that there are still some vape enthusiasts who, as well-intentioned as they may be, are misinformed about some of the most critical aspects of our side of the argument.

 

Ordinarily, we could shrug this off as a “no harm, no foul” type of situation.

 

Afterall, it’s hard to blame anyone for mixing up a fact or two when you consider that we are fighting on numerous fronts against multiple adversaries.

 

In addition, we’re also having to argue a number of points all at once as the focus of any given debate seems to have the ability to seamlessly transition from a “teen epidemic” to the “vaping illness” to “toxic ingredients” to “popcorn lung” without warning.

 

This is exactly why it is so important that we make sure that our argument is airtight. If we get one fact wrong, it can completely undermine any credibility we might have built to that point.

 

We are already up against a public opinion that ranges from indifferent at best, to vehemently opposed to vape in any form at worst. If any portion of our argument is proven to be false, it allows our opponents to sew doubt in the minds of the public about whether or not we are right about any of the claims we are making.

 

So, for this blog post I am going to provide you with some quick bullet points that clear up some of the misconceptions we’ve seen people post in our group over the past few weeks. You can use this as a guide to help your fellow vapers by making sure they are clear on the facts.

 

Master Settlement Agreement(MSA) & Tobacco-Backed Bonds

 

We are all familiar with Master Settlement Agreement (or MSA) by now and most of us have at least heard people talking about tobacco-backed bonds, but there are a lot of things that some of our fellow vapers still seem to get mixed up. So let’s break these down:

 

  • The Master SETTLEMENT Agreement, as the name suggests, is literally a settlement between four of the largest US tobacco companies and 46 states.
  • As is the case with ALL settlements, the MSA was an agreement that put an end to lawsuits brought by the states against these tobacco companies in exchange for a specific payment, which happened to include a percentage of all tobacco sales moving forward in perpetuity (meaning forever).
  • While the MSA only includes 46 states (and all US territories like Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.) it does not mean that the four remaining states are not receiving money from tobacco companies. Mississippi, Minnesota, Texas, and Florida had all reached individual settlements with big tobacco prior to the MSA being formed, which is the only reason they are not a part of the MSA.
  • Vape products are NOT covered by the MSA regardless of which company manufactures and sells them (e.g. Altria/JUUL).
  • All proceeds from the MSA were supposed to be spent on tobacco education and health care costs related to smoking. Had the money ONLY been used for these things, then as the number of tobacco sales went down, so would the costs associated with each of these, which would mean the states would have an incentive to truly get people to quit smoking.
  • Many of the states in the MSA (but not all of them) have sold what are called tobacco-backed bonds to major Wall Street investment firms.
  • These bonds essentially work like payday loans. The states who sold them took a large sum of money up front with the agreement that they would pay a much larger sum of money at a designated time in the future. The balloon payments that the states are required to pay were supposed to be covered by the MSA payments that they receive between the time they took the upfront payment and the date that their payment is due.
  • Every single state that sold a tobacco-backed bond is at risk of defaulting due to the fact that smoking rates have fallen at twice the rate that the people who constructed these bonds had anticipated. It is for this reason that most financial experts consider these bonds to be toxic debt that will be impossible for states to pay with MSA money.
  • States have credit ratings just like people. If these states default on their tobacco-backed bonds, their credit ratings will drop. This will be devastating for their respective economies as a lower credit rating will make it much harder for each state to find funding for any number of projects, and the loans they do find will now come with a much higher interest rate.
  • States with tobacco-backed bonds that are now coming due are left with two choices: either pull money from other programs to cover what they owe on the tobacco-backed bonds and then tax the people of the state to replenish the funds for those projects, or default.

 

JUUL/Altria

 

In the meantime, the states really started to feel the heat when Altria purchased a multi-billion dollar chunk of JUUL at the end of 2018. Let’s cover a few of the facts behind this partnership just to make sure we are all on the same page.

 

  • Altria OWNS 35% of JUUL, which they purchased for $12.8 billion in december of 2018. Some people seem to think that Altria simply “invested” in JUUL and that they aren’t actual owners of the company. This is not the case.
  • Altria is one of the largest tobacco producers in the world and is the parent company of numerous major cigarette and tobacco companies including Philip Morris (who owns Marlboro).
  • With their multi-billion dollar purchase, Altria became the largest single shareholder of JUUL.
  • In September of 2019, Altria essentially took full control of JUUL when they replaced the existing CEO with their one of their own; former Altria chief strategy officer KC Crosthwaite.
  • Since being purchased by Altria, JUUL has publicly supported virtually all proposed and implemented vape regulations including most flavor bans.

 

Vape Bans

 

It seems that many people who have been affected by vape bans in their city, county, or state aren’t entirely sure what they mean. So, to help clear up any confusion, here are some bullet points:

 

  • As of now (October 24th, 2019), none of the vape bans that have been implemented have included language that outlaws possession, or even the purchase of flavored e-liquid. The Michigan ban originally had such language, but that portion was removed before the ban was enacted. So, even those who live in areas where a ban is in place can legally buy, own, and possess flavored nicotine e-liquid.
  • So far, all implemented bans do apply to the sale of flavored e-liquid and/or vape products. This means that anyone who is in an area where a ban has been enacted can no longer sell these products.
  • No ban has been overturned. Many of the bans (Michigan, New York, Oregon, Montana, etc.) have been paused by judges who are hearing cases in those states. However, for now, all of these stoppages are temporary and won’t be made permanent before the conclusion of each of these lawsuits, if ever.

 

I could go on, but if I tried to cover every fact regarding every misconception that is held by some members of the vape community, this post would continue forever.

 

My hope is that by posting facts for the major points listed above, I can help you to better inform the people in your circles, who can then go out and correct the information among their circles, and so on and so forth.

 

The entire world is being bombarded with misinformation, falsehoods, and lies by our opponents. We can’t allow members of our community to be guilty of the same. We MUST do a better job of making sure that only accurate information is coming from our side.

 

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