Youngsville event shines light on vape marketing

Times Observer photo by Lorri Drumm Pictured is a slide showing a butane hash oil explosion. The slide was part of a presentation titled “Juuling, Vaping and Marijuana” held at the Youngsville Municipal Building on Friday. Butane hash oil is a resinous oil extracted from marijuana using butane as a solvent, and ingested, smoked, or vaporized as an intoxicant.

A group of folks gathered in Youngsville Friday to learn about similar marketing strategies and the dangers of buying into them when it comes to ingesting products that contain nicotine.

Special Agent Al McGill, with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, presented “Juuling, Vaping and Marijuana” at the Youngsville Municipal Building on Friday. The program was open to the public.

McGill has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement. He continues to work as a professional investigator and provides educational programs, such as Friday’s event. He also told those in attendance he is a former smoker who was “addicted to nicotine.”

McGill spoke about misconceptions people once had about the safety of cigarettes and other tobacco products. “A lot of people think that chewing is safer,” he said. “It’s not. It releases more nicotine into your system.”

“Nicotine is a highly-addictive drug,” he said. “It can be as difficult to give up as heroin.”

He cited examples of early marketing strategies used by tobacco companies in his Power Point presentation. He showed ads that depicted smokers as popular and cool. He also included an ad with a headline that claimed smoking was as safe as the water you drink.

McGill then showed examples of how E-cigarettes are being marketed to appeal to young people. He showed the similarity in appearance of Juuls to a USB port for a computer. “You even plug juuls into a computer to charge,” he said.

He also explained to those unfamiliar that Juuls is the most popular brand but Juuls and vaping all refer to E-cigarettes. “They are all electronic devices to put liquid in,” he said.

According to information available from the Surgeon General titled E-cigarette Basics:

E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. The liquid usually has nicotine and flavoring in it, and other additives. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is addictive. E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including: ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.

While McGill admitted that adults have the right to ingest whatever harmful substance they may choose, his concern was for young people. ‘The adolescent brain is more susceptible to addiction,” he said.

According to information from e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov: Adolescent years are times of important brain development. Brain development begins during the growth of the fetus in the womb and continues through childhood and to about age 25. Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain.

McGill showed examples of E-juice containers. Some looked like strawberry jam, popular cereals and gummies. ‘These are being marketed toward kids,” he said.

MCGill also spoke of the dangers connected to vaping and marijuana, since it can also be vaped using dabs. Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in sticky oils also commonly referred to as wax, shatter, budder, and butane.

He shared a YouTube video that shows a 20-year-old girl who almost died after using dabs for the first time. The incident caused permanent brain damage. “Her brain function is still not normal,” he said.

McGill also shared statistics that point to the potential dangers of vaping. He cautioned that statistics are constantly changing and can be skewed depending on who wants to use them to promote their view.

He was uncertain how many deaths in the country have been linked to vaping. One of the people in attendance told McGill that there have been 27 deaths in 22 different states.