As state smoking rates hit all-time lows, North Carolina AG oddly sues 8 e-cig companies

Conspiracy theorists who believe that Big Tobacco is secretly behind the FDA’s anti-vaping efforts need look no further than North Carolina for proof positive that something weird is indeed afoot.  The story begins with a September 2017 press release by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).  In this presser, the public health agency announces that statewide smoking rates for 2016 are “the lowest ever recorded.” In the past 2 years since the announcement, North Carolina smoking rates are dropping even further.

The NCDHHS press release also points out that people with less education and from lower income households tend to be smokers.  Also noteworthy, about 25 percent of individuals with physical or mental disabilities smoke combustible tobacco products as do about 20 percent of people living in rural communities. 

“’There are still large disparities in smoking rates across populations, and half of the people who continue to smoke will die of a smoking-related disease,’ said Susan Kansagra, M.D., chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services' in the Division of Public Health. ‘We need to provide smoking cessation opportunities and support to those who want to quit, especially people in the populations and communities where we find higher smoking rates.’”

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Okay.  So, an official representative of the NCDHHS wants all state government officials to support and “provide smoking cessation opportunities.” Gotcha.  According to reams of scientific research, vaping is the most effective stop-smoking aid on the planet – even twice more effective than conventional nicotine replacement therapies that include nicotine-enhanced patches, gums, and lozenges according to a recent randomized trial.

Now, to further fan to the flames of conspiracy, keep in mind that North Carolina is deep, deep, DEEP in the heart of tobacco country. Tobacco is one of its top crops.  If fewer and fewer North Carolinians are smoking, what does that say for the country as a whole?  If they aren’t smoking in North Carolina, where the heck ARE they smoking?

The vaping conspiracy theory thickens

Enter North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.  In an ABC News report of August 27, 2019, the state’s chief law enforcement officer announced the filing of a lawsuit against eight popular e-cigarette companies.  The plaintiffs include (in no particular order) VapeCo, Beard Vape, the Electric Lotus company, the Electric Tobacconist store, Juice Man, Eonsmoke, and Tinted Brew.

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The Stein lawsuit alleges violations of North Carolina’s unfair or deceptive trade practices statutes by aggressively advertising vaping devices and products to children.  The filings further claim that the eight vapor companies are not adhering to the state’s proper age identification requirements useful for the prevention of underage purchases.  The NC AG is apparently so infuriated by these alleged infractions that he is asking the judge to immediately shut down these 8 companies - essentially forcing them into immediate bankruptcy.

Is there a conspiracy theory happening here?  Or did the North Carolina Attorney General just file a lawsuit against the state’s most profitable vapor companies which, coincidentally, are at least partially responsible for the state’s rapidly and consistently diminishing smoking rates? 

The answer to this question may depend on the answer to another:  Which is better (i.e. more profitable) for North Carolina politicians?  Smoking or vaping? 

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(Image courtesy of Don Carrington via The Carolina Journal)

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