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September 30 2019

Banning E-cigs Will Lead to More Smoking and Grow the Black Market

featuring Julie Gunlock

I recently spoke with Victoria Vasconcellos, a former long time smoker and the owner of Cignot Inc., which is an Illinois based brick and mortar e-cigarette retail store that aims to help smokers switch to vaping. Victoria has made it her mission to insure that smokers receive support and affordable access to what she considers a life changing option to smoking. She has personally assisted tens of thousands of smokers as they navigate the path to no longer smoking. Vasconcellos is a founding member of the Illinois chapter of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Assiciation and is the current President of the Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois.

Vasconcellos is on the front line of the battle to preserve e-cigarette products. Like many states, Illinois is considering a ban on vaping products. Vasconcellos and I discuss this proposed ban, how e-cigarette users will suffer under these regulatory actions, and how these types of restrictions will grow the black market, which will result in more dangerous, unsafe products in the marketplace.

Beverly H.:
Hey, everyone. It's Beverly Hallberg. Welcome to a special pop-up episode of She Thinks, your favorite podcast from the Independent Women's Forum where we talk with women and sometimes men about the policy issues that impact you and the people you care about most. Enjoy.

Julie Gunlock:
Hey there. I'm Julie Gunlock, the director of the Center for Progress and Innovation at the Independent Women's Forum. I'm joined today by a special guest to discuss vaping and the recent calls to ban e-cigarettes and flavored vape products.

Julie Gunlock:
Victoria Vasconcellos is a former long-time smoker and the owner of Cignot, Inc. which is a retail shop for e-cigarette products. Victoria has made it her mission to ensure that that smokers received support and the affordable access to e-cigarettes, which she considers a life changing alternative to smoking. She has personally assisted tens of thousands of smokers as they navigate the path to quitting traditional cigarettes, and she's a founding member and current president of the Illinois chapter of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association. Welcome, Victoria.

Victoria V.:
Good morning. How are you today?

Julie Gunlock:
I'm doing great. I think you mentioned earlier you have coffee, and I have coffee. We're ready to dig into this very complex issue. Sadly, too many people, particularly legislatures, don't consider it complex, and there's so much confusion out there and misinformation that consumers, and particularly non-smokers and people who don't really have any experience trying to quit smoking, they also think it's a simple matter of just banning these products.

Julie Gunlock:
I want to talk about that and why these bands are so dangerous, and why it could really turn into a public health disaster. But before we get into that, I want you to tell me a little bit, and certainly the listeners, a little bit about your journey from a longtime smoker to a user of vape products, and to then owning a retail shop and also an advocate for these products and for people's access to them. Let's start off there, and I think the reason I want to start off there is I think it's really important to hear these stories of how people quit smoking through vape products.

Victoria V.:
Yeah. It's important because it's about a mission. In very early 2009, I had heard before about electronic cigarettes. They were not really commercially available, and my nephew mentioned to me that he saw one in a bar, so he kind of rekindled my interest.

Julie Gunlock:
Yes.

Victoria V.:
I tried one. I tried it. It was a Joyetech 510, and it was just life changing. I mean, I was a 33 year smoker.

Julie Gunlock:
Wow.

Victoria V.:
I had purified my Marlboro addiction by getting American Spirit in bulk and rolling my own every day.

Julie Gunlock:
Wow.

Victoria V.:
But I could feel... I would walk up the stairs, and I'm a pretty healthy, active woman who's been in sports, but I was winded by the time I got to the top of the stairs. My cough was so terrible that I would have to leave rooms. I'd have to excuse myself from the dinner table in a restaurant to go outside and cough my lungs out.

Victoria V.:
I tried everything, and I got this e-cig, and it was... My whoa moment was I had left my house to go to Jewel's, pick up groceries, and I had forgotten my cigarettes and my e-cig. I was driving, and I was about to just do a U-turn and go back home and get them, and I had been on an e-cig dual-using for a couple of weeks then, and I thought to myself, "No, I can actually get through shopping without this binky." And that was my kind of... It was an epiphany that I was out of the clutches of cigarettes.

Victoria V.:
My personal products that I was ordering directly from Joyetech in China were getting seized at the border, because the FDA was considering them a new drug delivery device, and that just made me irate that they would keep someone like me, a longtime smoker who was well on the path to death, from trying this alternative.

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
So I started Cignot, and my purpose of Cignot was that people wouldn't be willing to send their money overseas and perhaps lose it and never get their products because of a seizure. So I was going to take that risk away and allow smokers, as many as possible, to know that they had this alternative.

Julie Gunlock:
You say in your bio that you've helped tens of thousands of people. You've helped them navigate this path. And you know, I do think that that cigarette addiction and wanting to switch to a safer means of delivering that nicotine... what a lot of people don't know is the nicotine... Actually, it's incredibly sad. IWF did some polling on this earlier in the year, and it's astonishing to me because we asked the question, "Do you think nicotine is harmful?" I mean, the vast majority of people, way over 70%, thought that the nicotine was the harmful thing, not the burning.

Julie Gunlock:
And so, you mentioned helping people sort of navigate this system, but you must also be involved in sort of correcting that misinformation that those misconceptions about cigarettes, or rather about vaping, and the difference between vaping and e-cigarettes. Do you find that so many people like our poll are totally confused about this issue?

Victoria V.:
I do, but I think it's been a purposeful conflation of the dangers in smoking and nicotine to bash e-cigs. For whatever reason, we could put on tinfoil hats and talk conspiracy theories, but for some reason there's a group of organizations and people that they just want to give this terrible impression of e-cigs. What I found recently, which is horrifying, is that where we were once pounding our chest... I've helped 65,000 customers plus, and I would say back in 2009 there was no internet information about this. There was no the E-Cigarette Forum, and that's where everybody convened and we discussed it all. We improved the product. We put pressure on manufacturers. I mean, truly, truly a consumer driven industry this has been.

Julie Gunlock:
Yes.

Victoria V.:
And started by mostly all consumers, right? I mean none of us were... I mean, I was just a self-employed person, gainfully unemployed is what I always call myself, but I would never have wanted to start a business and have employees. That's just not what I like to do.

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
This was so important, and as a consumer, I needed other smokers to understand. We were proud and strong and what is happening lately is that we're being shamed again.

Julie Gunlock:
Exactly.

Victoria V.:
I was a smoking... It's terrible. I mean, I had people harassing my sales people in the stores with these inflammatory articles.

Julie Gunlock:
Let's talk a little bit about that, because I've seen that too, and I want to back up just a little bit and talk about how interesting... This is an issue that's fairly new to me. My job at IWF is sort of to examine these sort of moral outrages and these public health panics, and to look at the data and say, "Okay, is this actually something to worry about?"

Julie Gunlock:
And so this sort of panic about e-cigarettes is fairly new, and as I was examining it, it was really interesting to me to see how the public health officials, and I agree with you, this is a coordinated and intentional effort to misinform the public, particularly moms, and so, when I was looking at this, it was interesting to me to see that it used to be, "Don't smoke." Right? And, "Smoking is bad." And it's slowly changed to, "Nicotine is bad. Nicotine." And the reason is is because they want to include now vaping in the hysteria of smoking. They want it to be one big package, and so I agree with you that it's intentional, and it's interesting to see how the narrative has changed from smoking is bad to nicotine is bad, because again, as I said, they can then capture nicotine or vaping.

Julie Gunlock:
You also mentioned about how you're being shamed. This is also, I think, intentional to try to sort of shame people or embarrass them or somehow paint vaping as as-bad as smoking. Expand on that harassment that some of your employees and other people have have experienced.

Victoria V.:
Well, I think, when you said they've infuriated the moms, I mean, they've weaponized soccer moms is what they've done.

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah.

Victoria V.:
They have a genuine concern-

Julie Gunlock:
Sure.

Victoria V.:
... which we share, I must say. As an owner of a business, I share that concern, and I recently just fired someone who had sold to underage. I mean, it's just an unacceptable thing. Nobody, no smoker like me, wants a kid to start smoking or vaping.

Julie Gunlock:
Of course.

Victoria V.:
But recently my nephew was at home, and a neighbor had crossed the street, and he was working at his workshop. He had a logo of mine that he was painting that I had cut out of wood. This guy, once he found out what that logo was for, started harassing my nephew. I mean, it's just the everyday public with strangers are coming up to you and looking down their nose at you because of what they've been reading.

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah, yeah.

Victoria V.:
It's frightening, and it's actually sad, because once we've-

Julie Gunlock:
Meanwhile, at liquor stores employees are, as far as I've heard or seen, have not been targeted like this. And if people were really concerned about the dangers to teens, they would look at there's some pretty high numbers of teen drinking. I also wonder why people aren't more concerned with the leading cause of death of teenagers, which is auto accidents, and it's not all drunk driving. It's just reckless driving. And so, you've got two major problems in the teenage community and the young adult community. Again, the leading cause of death of young adults and teens is auto accidents, and there's very high levels of under-age drinking.

Julie Gunlock:
I always feel like this vaping issue is really distracting from issues that are important to young adults and teens. When you look at actually the data, the CDC data, and I know you know this too, that this whole idea... Of course, fine. Let's just say that. Let's say we both agree. There should be no teen vaping. Teenagers should not have this stuff, and we don't want anyone to pick up the habit who hasn't previously smoked. But the numbers are really inflated. It's only like 5% of teenagers who smoke habitually.

Julie Gunlock:
What the CDC is doing is asking teenagers, "Hey, did you smoke once in the past 30 days?" And they're also not accounting for non-nicotine vape liquid that's available that many of these teenagers are using. So I think the teen vaping issue is again being used to demonize retailers and the entire industry, and they're forgetting that people like you and the tens of thousands of people that you've helped actually use vaping to cut or to cut out of a really dangerous habit of smoking.

Victoria V.:
Yeah. That's what I was going to add. It's almost that there's no offset for our lives, right? We're discounted. You know?

Julie Gunlock:
Yes.

Victoria V.:
I was a smoker, so my life doesn't matter anymore?

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
I mean, there's 35 million smokers. There's 14, or 13 million I believe now, of us that vape. And there's like, "Wait, don't we count? Where do we get added into the decision to ban flavors?" Which I was asked yesterday if you think vapers will turn back to smoking. And I'm like, "Well, yeah, because there's not going to be any vape shops left. Where are they going to get their stuff?"

Julie Gunlock:
That's right.

Victoria V.:
They're going to go... I mean, cigarettes are readily available.

Julie Gunlock:
Tell me... I have a question about, now, lot of people think the vape industry is all JUUL. It's all JUUL. Everything is JUUL, right? Disabuse our listeners of that, because that's not true, right? Tell us about the individual vape shops and people like you who manufacture their own flavors, and tell us a little bit about that.

Victoria V.:
Well, I think again, because this was a cottage industry, there were no e-liquids available in the United States when I started my shop, and I was having, because of the supply chain issues with being seized at the border... I mean, I had to come up with a solution because I had people that were depending upon me to not buy the next pack of cigarettes.

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah, right.

Victoria V.:
So we started manufacturing e-liquid ourselves, and really, it started as a supply chain issue. I had to guarantee that they had something available, whatever it was to keep them from buying their next pack of cigs.

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
So, I mean, I think that became... We all did that. And obviously now e-liquid is... There's a bunch of manufacturers in the United States.

Julie Gunlock:
But there's also the idea that there's individual vape shops, like Cignot. It's not like there's a CVS of vape shops that that are just... I mean, it's usually individually-owned shops that people who, a lot of them were former smokers, cared passionately about the smoking cessation qualities of e-cigarettes and have helped other people sort of kick that habit, so it's not just the liquid. It's also the shops themselves. I mean, this is largely a small business run industry. Correct?

Victoria V.:
It is. And you get private guidance in a shop. You go to Jewel's or 7-Eleven or whatever, you don't have a clerk that really understand the product. That's explains, "What are you smoking now? How much do you smoke?"

Julie Gunlock:
Can you imagine? Yeah, I'm trying to imagine asking the 7-Eleven guy.

Victoria V.:
You're trying to get your doughnut, and the guy's educating him on vaping. The value add that these small vape shops have... I mean, we're former smokers, and we get it. We can completely relate. We're like built-in addiction counselors, technically.

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
And what JUUL did was they made a marvelous product that people loved, right?

Julie Gunlock:
Yes.

Victoria V.:
I had been in contact with JUUL prior to them getting big to get my view of how effective is this. Is this really going to work for an adult smoker? And so, I mean, their intention was the adult smoker. Unfortunately, it is such a cool product that the kids dig it.

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah.

Victoria V.:
And then you've got Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids putting up all these-

Julie Gunlock:
Oh, they're just... yeah.

Victoria V.:
... social media. I mean, they did all the advertising for JUUL to the youth has been through Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Julie Gunlock:
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Victoria V.:
I mean JUUL's company... Yeah. They targeted a younger demographic.

Julie Gunlock:
Explain that a little bit. Explain that a little bit, because it's funny. You and I know this issue, and we're like... It's funny, because sometimes when I write about this issue, my editor has to say, "Julie, you need to explain this paragraph because you're speaking like you're talking to an audience who understands this issue." Talk a little, explain that further, on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, their advertisements. How they actually through scaring kids actually promoted the very product they don't want kids to have. Just just take a moment to explain that.

Victoria V.:
Yeah, I mean, they were saying things like, "My god, everybody's doing it." They had these cool graphics with worms under skin. I saw a recent YouTube video, and it was these kids were making, this young man, was making fun of all these commercials that they did.

Victoria V.:
They did one recently with a heavy metal guy, and kind of a monster-like guy, "Nicotine!"

Julie Gunlock:
Right, right, right.

Victoria V.:
That's the Tide pod challenge. That's just putting lights around it for a kid who's... That's what kids do. They buck the system. And they're like, "Yeah."

Victoria V.:
I mean, so they've helped create this whole, what they call, an epidemic. And while you say it's true that kids aren't using it daily, everybody wants to take a puff. They're not going to be uncool at a party, and that's being charted as a user of vaping products. [crosstalk 00:17:42]

Julie Gunlock:
Well, and as a mom, I don't want my kid... I've got a middle schooler, and he's come home and talked about it a little bit, and I certainly talk to him about it. As a mom, if given the choice between... it seems like the Democrats.. all right, and I don't mean to because that's not true. There's as many Republicans who are worked up about this. For goodness sake, President Trump announcing that he might ban flavored products. I mean, so I take that back because there's as much hysteria on the right as the left on this issue.

Julie Gunlock:
But I feel like, so often it's an abstinence 100%. Look, I also, I don't want my child to try vaping, but he might. I certainly would rather him experiment with vaping, which is 95% less harmful than smoking than trying cigarettes. And that's what's so frustrating to me is that there seems to be no recognition that kids are going to probably experiment with stuff. There's a much safer version of that, and that kids think is cooler than smoking because smoking smells and you can't exactly hide it from your parents. There's all this. There's smelly smoke, so it's not... My sister's attempts with the towels under the door when we were little didn't work. My mom could smell that on the other side of the house.

Victoria V.:
What were we thinking?

Julie Gunlock:
I know. And so there seems to be, and this... Go ahead.

Victoria V.:
There's a great deal of data that says that abstinence is a failed strategy, right?

Julie Gunlock:
Yes. Right.

Victoria V.:
I mean, "Don't have sex." So what are you going to do? Ban condoms?

Julie Gunlock:
Right. Right.

Victoria V.:
I mean, there's a reality that humans enjoy pleasure. Kids like to experiment. They enjoy bucking the system. And one of the issues with what they're doing is you can't lie to kids, especially now.

Victoria V.:
I remember when I was very young and I was hearing all the marijuana madness. We didn't have the Internet. I went to the library, and I started reading Mother Jones, and they were lying to me. Public Health was lying to me. So I smoked anyway because... And you know what? That's a credibility issue. I would have to tell you that I really don't believe what Public Health says anymore, because it's always for some monetary reason or to orchestrate some panic, or to control the masses or another-

Julie Gunlock:
Right. Well let's not forget, okay, and I've actually written about this quite a bit. Public Health always had these sort of oops things where they... Let's talk about eggs and cholesterol, right? For 20 years, my poor father didn't have a proper omelet, okay, or an actual fried egg in the morning or any scrambled eggs. He was eating those awful Egg Beaters because the doctor said, "Hey, You know you have to worry about your cholesterol. You have to watch your cholesterol."

Julie Gunlock:
And then, no kidding, two years ago, HHS and the public health sector comes out and was like, "You know what?" And they actually... This is the actual statement. "Cholesterol is no longer a nutrient of concern." I mean, can you imagine? My poor father has been having egg whites for 20 years, and then suddenly that the HHS is like, "Actually, we were wrong."

Julie Gunlock:
And so, I only bring that up because they do that with... I mean, every 10 days coffee's going to kill you. And then, you know what? Actually coffee keeps you living longer.

Victoria V.:
It's like margarine and butter.

Julie Gunlock:
Oh, exactly.

Victoria V.:
Yeah. It's the whole margarine and butter thing. I mean, I guess I've always... My mother was a farmer from Italy, right?

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
So I've always been brought up, "Stay as close to the earth as possible." Right?

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah.

Victoria V.:
I mean, that's the way it was designed. It's the system.

Julie Gunlock:
Sure.

Victoria V.:
Don't mess with the system. I mean, I think Public Health has really lost its credibility, and if there's any saving grace about what is happening now with these THC deaths is that it is so obvious that they have just utilized this to bash e-cigs when our industry, the electronic cigarette industry containing nicotine meant to get smokers off of cigarettes, deadly cigarettes, it is so obvious that they are throwing Public Health to the wind to bash a product that they're against.

Julie Gunlock:
Absolutely.

Victoria V.:
And in doing that, they are killing people. We are-

Julie Gunlock:
They're killing people. They are literally... Yeah.

Victoria V.:
They are killing. Yes.

Julie Gunlock:
This hysteria, this claims that they're going... and what makes me so mad. I'd like to talk about two other things. First of all, I am a mom of three boys. I'm going to face this stuff, and I feel like when I see women that are afraid of this... A friend of mine sent me a listing from her Listserv, her neighborhood Listserv. I don't know if you have those or these Yahoo groups.

Victoria V.:
Yeah.

Julie Gunlock:
If you live in a certain ZIP code, you have these, and actually they're great fun, because usually these little neighborhoods spats are hilarious to watch, but they have started that. In this one neighborhood where my colleague lives, they've started up an anti-vape moms' group, right? One of these stroller brigades, where the moms get up there, and they're all indignant and angry about some particular thing. This one is about vaping.

Julie Gunlock:
I'm sitting there thinking to myself, "Gosh, I wish I could go talk to them and reassure them." One of the things that you hear from a lot of moms is, "Oh, well look at these flavors, bubblegum and mango and creme brulee and all this stuff." When I do have an opportunity to talk to a mom and I say, "Actually they've polled adults, former smokers and what flavor, and you'd think, 'Well it's tobacco. They want tobacco.' No, they want these delicious flavors. Who wouldn't want the taste of bubblegum over tobacco?"

Julie Gunlock:
And so one thing that frustrates me is one of the calls is to ban particular flavors. So they'd leave the tobacco flavor out there, but to ban certain flavors. Menthol is another one, and it frustrates me so much because that is going to drive people back to smoking if you take the flavor away. The very reason they're vaping is because they like all these different flavors. And again, polling shows, adults like this. It's not just kids.

Victoria V.:
Tobacco flavor and e-cigs and vaping is flavorless. Period. You have to add in flavor. There are attempts to create tobacco flavors. And you know, when I did a 70 year old that's been smoking Camel, whatever, you do transition them initially to something that might be like a Camel flavor, and it's not a good semblance of the flavor. It's hard to create a decent tasting tobacco flavor or something that's similar, because you cannot duplicate combustion, and that's part of it.

Julie Gunlock:
Right. Right.

Victoria V.:
So, you try that, but then their taste buds start coming alive in about a week and a half and they're like, "Man, this tastes like crap."

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah, yeah.

Victoria V.:
They do. Why shouldn't they have strawberry sherbet for their vape?

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
They like that flavor.

Julie Gunlock:
But people act like adults don't like the... What adult doesn't like the flavor of bubblegum? I mean, it's not just... They act like this is, "Oh, this is definitely, an attempt to attract kids." But that's just wrong. It's actually not true.

Victoria V.:
Again, they're discounting me, and I'm going to say me. They're discounting me, because I've been baking peach for 10 years or pomegranates.

Julie Gunlock:
Yes.

Victoria V.:
Why do you think I should go back to having to taste Marlboro?

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
Why do you think you should impose that upon me? Don't I get... Because I'm a smoker, I don't get to have pleasure?

Julie Gunlock:
Well, but again, the argument does make sense to some people if they say... Because most people don't know that you've been smoking pomegranate and peach for 10 years. Most people think that a lifetime smoker who switches to vaping would want the taste of tobacco, would want the flavor of tobacco, so they don't understand, and they think that the only reason these vape shops and individual companies have developed these sweeter flavors, is just to attract the kids, and I feel like that's a really important thing that we need to debunk.

Julie Gunlock:
That people, like you said, they have... Their taste buds come alive and their preferences may change, and they're still getting the satisfaction of the nicotine without all the harm, but they're getting it with a really nice flavor. It frustrates me that people think the only reason these sweet flavors and fruit flavors exist are to get the 13 year old hooked. It's just not true, and that's why it's so important and so great that you're out there talking about this.

Julie Gunlock:
Sometimes I say, "Oh, well, there's a poll that says that most vapers actually... " And it's like, "You're talking data. You sound like a robot." It's great to hear it from people who actually have, like you said, used peach. Peach is something that I'm sure a lot of kids would be attracted to, but in fact, you're a grown adult, and that's your flavor of choice. That's so important for people to know.

Victoria V.:
It is. It is. I pointed this out recently. Again, these THC cards. They're finding when they test these vape pens that they're collecting in schools, that a great many of them are containing THC, which is very dangerous, obviously, when it's on the black market. But they come in all kinds of lovely blue raz and lovely flavors just like e-liquid does, and if you think that a kid is picking up a THC card and vaping that for the blue raspberry flavor, and not to get buzzed-

Julie Gunlock:
The blueberry flavor. Yeah.

Victoria V.:
Yeah, that's crazy.

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah. That's crazy.

Victoria V.:
They're picking it up to get the buzz.

Julie Gunlock:
That's right. Yeah, I'm glad you wrapped the THC issue. And again, this is another misconception, and we'll finish on this, but it's true that this is not... These infections and these respiratory issues and deaths have not been connected to FDA-approved liquid. That's correct. Right?

Victoria V.:
Oh, yeah. It's water-based. This has to do with an oil, and you know who's been fabulous in reporting this is Leafly Magazine. They were on this from almost day one. There was a new additive thickener out there. And again, there is this big chasm of... It's a regulatory issue where the FDA cannot create standards for additives because it's illegal federally, while states are rushing to make them legal but don't have the science departments to do this testing.

Julie Gunlock:
Right.

Victoria V.:
So that regulatory chasm needs to be bridged somehow, but you could not put oil in an e-cig. It is a different type of atomizer. It would clog it up. You would get a dry hit, and it would burn out. It would not be vapable, and I can't tell people, because I have customers that come in. "Are these safe?" And I'm like, "Yeah, you can't put oil in this stuff. It would kill your atty in a day." You would know, believe me.

Julie Gunlock:
Yeah. Yeah.

Victoria V.:
It's water and oil. You would see it, right, in your tank. It would separate. So yeah, this THC thing... And again, when the CDC called it e-cigs, perhaps they're not aware of our terminology, but I was talking to a painter the other night, a young man, and this is two nights ago, so this is very recent. And I said, "Hey, are you aware that there's black market THC carts, and that's what's causing the lung issues?" And he was like, "No, I thought it was e-cigs."

Julie Gunlock:
That's right. Right.

Victoria V.:
So they're using the wrong term, and even after being told.

Julie Gunlock:
Oh but they're using it, and it's not... Look, I happen to believe this is intentional. It is a way to stoke fears using people's sort of, I hate the word ignorance, but really using people's ignorance of how these particular devices actually work, and that there is the existence of a black market. What frustrates me so much is they're claiming, "Oh." Now Public Health is saying they're concerned about this black market of illicit products, yet in the same breath, they're talking about making other things illegal. How do they think black markets grow? They're going to make it worse.

Julie Gunlock:
I do think that they were slow to point out to people that this is THC related, and this is oils, and these are things that are not FDA-approved that you're bringing into your lungs. They were slow to really make that distinction, because I think they did use it as an opportunity to make people afraid about e-cigarettes, in general.

Julie Gunlock:
They're desperate for a smoking gun for something that shows harm, and because they don't have that, they thought this was their opportunity. Absolutely salivating at the idea of making people more afraid and damaging the industry.

Victoria V.:
Absolutely.

Julie Gunlock:
Maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe I'm conspiratorial.

Victoria V.:
No, I think they underestimate our resolve.

Julie Gunlock:
Yes.

Victoria V.:
I mean, these saved my life, and I've got 65,000 people, probably 80% of which have converted for life, and it's saved their life. They underestimate how hard people will fight to save their own life.

Julie Gunlock:
Well, that is-

Victoria V.:
Just a minute. 1300 will die today from smoking-related deaths.

Julie Gunlock:
That's right.

Victoria V.:
You can never, ever lose sight of that, of the big picture.

Julie Gunlock:
Well listen, Victoria. You are a passionate advocate and so informative, and I'm so glad you came on.

Victoria V.:
Well, thank you.

Julie Gunlock:
Tell our listeners where they can find out more about you if you have a website or talk a little bit about your work for the trade association. Just give them a little bit of information on how to reach you.

Victoria V.:
Well, I'm the current president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, and certainly if you're a business owner in Illinois, you should be part of our membership. That website is sfacoil.org, and if you have any questions, I am pretty much the sole customer service person for my company online, and I take it very, very personally. If you have any questions on vaping, my email address is Vicki, with an I, @cignot.com, and that's like cigarette not, C-I-G-N-O-T .com. I'm happy to answer any questions you ever have and give you studies or whatever I need to do for you.

Julie Gunlock:
All right, so instead of going to the 7-Eleven and trying to ask the 15 year old clerk hard questions about vaping, it's much better to support a small business-

Victoria V.:
I'm there.

Julie Gunlock:
... a small business like Cignot, which is helping thousands of people every day, and Victoria helping thousands of people every day kick a very dangerous habit. I'm really glad that you were able to quit smoking, Victoria. I think it's a wonderful story, and it's so important, and really hope that these products are left in the marketplace for other people who are struggling with that addiction.

Victoria V.:
I do as well. And thank you for having me on, Julie.

Julie Gunlock:
Well, this was a great podcast. Victoria, you were a great guest. Thanks so much.

Julie Gunlock:
We hope you, the listener, take away something new from today's conversation, and if you enjoyed this episode of She Thinks, or like the podcast in general, we'd love it if you could take a moment to leave us a rating or review on iTunes. This helps ensure our message reaches as many Americans as possible. Share this episode and let your friends know they can find more She Thinks episodes on their favorite podcast app. From all of us here at IWF, remember, you're in control. I think. You think. She thinks.


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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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