The Black Market Is The Problem, Not Vaping

The Center for Disease Control announced on Sept.12 that there has been an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarettes. All of the evidence so far has linked these illnesses to a chemical exposure. While not one culprit has been blamed for this outbreak, many of those affected reported using e-cigarette products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, a substance found in marijuana.

When first introduced to the masses, vaping got made fun of. This was understandable: big, bulky box mod-style vaporizers looked ridiculous. However, as the industry evolved, sleeker, more appealing devices such as the Juul emerged. The cannabis industry has joined in on this phenomenon, with cartridges containing THC distillate becoming popular due to their ease of use. Unfortunately, the target audience for vaping has been misdirected. 

While adults are the main consumers, teenagers have begun vaping at epidemic proportions. The National Institutes of Health found that the percentage of seniors in high school who vape increased from 28% in 2017 to 37% in 2018. Considering the investments made to prevent teenage nicotine usage, this is troubling. 

Teenagers will continue to do drugs, regardless of what adults say. Cannabis is no exception either, with the rise of THC-distillate cartridges making sense given this craze. Due to the legal status of the substance, many have used illegal means such as the unregulated black market to get these cartridges. Going to the black market for drugs is problematic. Unless you test the substance, you cannot be sure that the substance is what was advertised to you. You also cannot be sure of what other substances might be mixed in. This problem has plagued the cannabis industry. Counterfeit cartridges are significantly more popular than the actual thing, much of it due to most people still living in states where you cannot get these products at licensed dispensaries. 

The problem does not go away with legalization: most who use cannabis still purchase through illegal means, with New Frontier Data finding that 80% of the substance sold in California is within the black market. The high taxes on cannabis may explain this. More research needs to be done to definitively say what the cause of this outbreak is. It could be nicotine products that are the culprit instead of cannabis. But common usage of black market products does not help this problem. President Donald Trump’s proposal to eliminate flavored e-cigarette products will only make this worse, as this attracts more attention towards these products and the demand for them will remain. 

Raising awareness of the dangers of counterfeit cartridges could help, but high taxes would hinder any progress made. Federal legalization is a necessity to combat this, but people will still be motivated to go to the black market unless taxes are reduced. E-cigarettes are the new way to consume drugs. Stigmatizing its usage will not reverse the high rates of teenage usage, as well as the troubles associated with the black market.