Vaping is safer than money.


Hi, I’m MIT.

I have not added to this blog for awhile – primarily because I felt that I had expressed everything that could be said about vaping as a significantly safer way to obtain nicotine compared to combustible cigarettes. I have covered how vaping saved my life, why it needs to be hailed as the greatest public health advancement in history (based on the sheer numbers of lives that it can potentially save), how the vaping industry itself has been its own worst enemy, and why governments are so averse to allowing any solutions that their own self-important ranks didn’t create. Adding more detail, rehashing arguments, and reiterating points that I’ve already made seemed a little tedious – especially in the age of the internet where those blogs are being “discovered” and reread regularly anyway.

So why a new entry now?

Two reasons, actually. The first is because I want to acknowledge how significantly the vaping industry has improved since my initial criticism. Naked girls vaping, cloud competitions, stupid marketing, and intellectual property lawsuit softballs have all become the exceptions rather than the standard – with the adults in the industry putting obvious and public pressure on those who were a little slow on the uptake.

I see more advocacy, professionalism, and solidarity today than I have observed in the past several years of watching the growth of the industry. This is encouraging to say the least, and I hope everyone keeps fighting for this necessary and invaluable technology against the unethical attacks being brought against it.

Which brings me to the second reason for putting myself in front of you again; I am so fucking tired of the money game.

Can cash kill?

To be clear, I really like money. It can be traded for necessities, lifestyle, and improved opportunities. But like any other tool, it can also be used to harm others. Far too often today people are choosing cash over human lives; which is what the politicians, public health “advocates,” pharmaceutical companies, and tobacco companies are doing in the vaping situation (among others).

Local, state, and federal governments are absolutely dependent on the continued sale of combustible cigarettes, as are pharmaceutical companies that produce ineffective but highly profitable smoking cessation products (gums, patches, and drugs), and – of course – the cigarette manufacturers. Over the summer I met with a tobacco company insider who admitted that the cost to produce a standard pack of cigarettes was in the range of nineteen cents. Nineteen cents. The average pack of cigarettes in America retails for around $5.00 (including taxes) and there are 40,000,000 people buying a pack a day (averaged). That’s over $192 million per day in profits and taxes being generated off of a product that kills users; a product that the government and the health agencies/organizations say that they want you to stop using…until you actually do. Because then, their financial controllers look at the decreased revenues and start tearing chunks out of the office chairs with their asses.

So people ask why the FDA, state health agencies, public health non-profits, and some corporations (along with the beholden media) are attacking vaping technology so mercilessly? Just follow the money. They have 192,000,000 reasons every day to fund more bullshit studies, destructive legislation, and attack ads to keep people from quitting cigarettes.

The bastards are trading your life and health (or that of your family, friends, and coworkers) for their necessities, lifestyle, and improved opportunities. For cash.

I will close with a quote that my friend Chris Hughes shared with me – it’s from a 2014 Wall Street Journal article about the negative impacts that e-cigarettes were having on government combustible cigarette revenue. When addressing the rise of vaping and subsequent drop in cigarette sales (odd how that works), one of the directors of a high-yield bond fund that had invested heavily in government cigarette sales revenue-backed debt stated, “Something that might slow this down is if more legislation gets implemented to tax or ban e-cigarettes, which would be beneficial to the sale of combustible cigarettes.” In the two years since this statement, we have seen a drastic increase in attempts to (over) tax vaping, or to ban it altogether.

The attacks on vaping technology aren’t about the children, public health, or safety. They are about lost revenue. They are about money.

And steering tens of millions of cigarette smokers away from the life-saving alternative called vaping for the benefit of your own personal lifestyle is just fucking evil.

Of corruption, lies, and…Jedi knights?


It’s called synchronicity, my dear Mr. Watson

I just committed to attending the North American premiere of the documentary film A Billion Lives on August 6th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I like Wisconsin. After all, it’s the home to Harley Davidson, Laverne and Shirley, and where That ’70s Show was set – ironically, all things representing my youth. What’s not to like?

Now, philosopher Soren Kierkegaard claimed that life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards. The older I get, the more sense that statement makes to me. The reason that I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s quote is because I have only attended one other red carpet film premiere in my life – and it oddly mirrors the situation of A Billion Lives.

At the turn of the century (the one preceded by the Y2K panic – I’m not that old), I was working in the motion picture industry. As a result, I found myself on set in San Rafael, California when the arena scene from Star Wars – Attack of the Clones was being filmed.


It looked nothing like this, by the way. The background structure of the arena was actually a model roughly the size of a Volkswagen bus, and it was sitting in a canal district warehouse several blocks from the filming location. The robots were nowhere to be found, and this crowd of Jedis were all filmed separately on an otherwise empty, bright green sound stage. Ah, the magic of movie making.

As an aside, I can definitely confirm the old rumor that several members of the boy band ‘NSYNC were indeed extra Jedis in the battle scene, although they were edited out of the final film. I can remember standing by the craft services table when a friend nudged me and whispered, “Hey, you’re standing next to ‘NSYNC.” I looked over at the cloaked guys to my right, without even a flicker of recognition. Boy bands weren’t really my thing, though. Now if the guys from Metallica had been extras, I may have been much more impressed.

A year or so later, I also ended up at the red carpet premiere for the film.

In case you have spent the past forty years living in a refrigerator box, the basic premise of the entire Star Wars saga is that a large, corrupt, evil, bureaucratic organization called the Empire is fighting to eradicate a small group of good, freedom-loving rebels. The Empire has a seemingly endless supply of money, politicians, weapons, and robots. The rebel forces are small, underfunded, and fighting on the side of what is right. The Empire is built on lies, political chicanery, and death.

Are you seeing where I’m going here? Not only does the underlying Star Wars story mirror the age old battle between right and wrong; good and evil…but it also mirrors the current battle to keep vaping – a significantly less harmful alternative to tobacco cigarettes – legal and available in the face of unethical attacks by those trying to keep their blood money flowing.

As vaping supporters, we are currently standing back-to-back in that alien arena, with a huge wave of evil Empire robots slowly closing off every angle of victory, or even escape. If you recall the pivotal scene from Lucas’ film, the few remaining good guys were rescued by an aerial assault led by Yoda and the clone army. Who is our Yoda? Where is our clone army? Although they have yet to arrive, they are coming. And it will be on the wave of education, publicity, and truth in the wake of the documentary A Billion Lives. That film will change minds, and once it’s widely distributed, it will change the outcome of the fight to save the lives of hundreds of millions of cigarette smokers.

That’s why I’m supporting Attention Era’s documentary, and that’s why I’m going to the film’s premiere on August 6th. I am not going to wander the red carpet, I won’t be wearing a name tag, and my plan is to just get lost in the sea of people there to witness the truth that this amazing film documents. In fact, if the Molecule Labs after-party gets too crowded, I’ll be the guy wandering down the street to a great Milwaukee bar called Distil. Look it up.

If you see me there, feel free to share your story of how vaping saved your life. Or we can just talk about Star Wars.

I want my goddamned country back.


Grieving for the America of my youth

Things are not going well in these United States, and it has nothing to do with the number of guns, the color of the people who live here, or which political party is in the White House. It’s not going well because we – the beneficiaries of this 250 year experiment in individual freedom – have lost all perspective. And in our distraction, we are being taken advantage of by opportunists (in both the public and private sectors) who seek to increase their own importance, power, and bank accounts at our expense.

Have you recently found yourself looking at the societal insanity around you – this culture of the offended, the divisive and divided, the entitled, and the irresponsible – and thought, is anyone else seeing this shit?

Yes. Yes, we are. And my question as an official representative of American society is this: what the hell happened?

I was born at the tail end of the 1960s to a father just back from the Viet Nam war and a mother who had graduated from high school in San Francisco right into the Summer of Love. When I was young we moved to the suburbs, to a house that looked like every other house on our wide street, and I spent the afternoons cruising the neighborhood on my banana-seat bike; usually with a group of friends in tow. I can remember lying on the cool, green grass in the front yard, dreaming of an amazing future as I watched clouds grow and change as they moved across the impossibly blue California sky.

My father was a staunch conservative from Missouri who had found San Francisco – and my mother – while on leave from the military, and she was a young liberal who wanted to be a poet; still apparently enchanted with the hippies who she had spent her teen years with. They were both very patriotic though, I remember that. Back then you could apparently still be liberal and love the traditional America of the baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet and under God fame. They knew all of the neighbors, worked in the front yard on Saturdays, had well-attended barbecues on Sundays, and both worked full-time jobs. Influenced in certain ways by each parent, I grew up respecting others, respecting the rule of law, respecting the complicated history of my country, respecting hard work, and respecting the opportunities I had because I had been born in the United States of America.

For those of you who care about such things; I am a man, I believe in a God, I am Caucasian (that means “white” for you younger readers), I know that human beings are unique among all animals, and that we are more valuable than anything else on this planet. I don’t feel guilty for any of that, and if you think I should you can fuck off. As for being judgmental, I don’t make decisions about people based on their appearance, color, financial standing, sex or sexual preference, religion, neighborhood, political affiliation, drug use, or the type of music they listen to. I make decisions about individuals based on their character; the way they treat others, their behavior, and what they choose to stand for. I learned that from people like Martin Luther King, Jr. – who is probably fighting to get out of his grave right now so he can personally strangle Jesse Jackson and slap the shit out of the current race movement.

Incidentally, I also believe that it’s wrong to tell people that if they possess certain characteristics or appearances, they need society’s help in order to succeed – in jobs, school, or life. It’s incredibly insulting and damaging to the people receiving that extra assistance (even if they themselves don’t realize it), and it’s incredibly insulting and damaging to those forced to support that preferential treatment for others. The reality is that life is fucking hard for everybody, regardless of background, genetics, finances, parenting, or education. Life demands equal payment from all of us; the pain, uncertainty, grief, loss, failures, and frustrations that I have experienced in life are no worse or better than yours – just perhaps different.

And to those always looking to place blame so they can somehow feel better about their station in life, feel free to keep pointing fingers at whoever or whatever you want. Just know that every time you do, you are pointing three fingers back at yourself. Your life is ultimately up to you and the choices you make. If it has all turned to shit, you should probably start evaluating where you might have gone wrong. And if you don’t seem to have the ability for that level of self-reflection, it’s only because you are choosing not to. Your outcomes can always be traced back to you. Painful, I know, but that’s the human condition; it’s a universal truth. (Again, for those younger readers, a truth is something that is real and factual regardless of whether you choose to believe it. Examples of truth are; gravity, the chemical composition of water, and the fact that socialism always deteriorates into division, violence, and ultimate failure when applied to human society.)

Okay, back to me lying on the green grass in the summers of my youth. By the time I reached adulthood, America was supposed to be a futuristic society filled with advanced thinkers, domesticated robots, and aerial highways thick with hovering vehicles. Instead, we’ve spent the past forty-plus years growing our government ever larger and subsequently devolving into a society of highly isolated shut-ins; unwilling to think critically, constantly distracted by mindless bullshit, and splintered among volatile but invented categories like race, income, gender, sexual preference, religion, and sociopolitical philosophy. We are a populace that careens between anger, depression, apathy, selfishness, and intentional ignorance (or, to call it what it really is, passive aggression). As a result, we are now governed by a mass of manipulative predators who are more than happy to exploit our disorganized weakness for their own egos, power, and gain. Trust in the U.S. government is at an all-time low – meaning we know that they are taking advantage of us – yet oddly, we do nothing.

Wait, who made you a spokesman for America?


Actually, Leon Borensztein did.

Back in the late 1970s, a Polish immigrant to America named Leon Borensztein took a job selling portrait packages door-to-door. He traveled the nation shooting traditional family portraits for money, while also switching out cameras to take candid photos of what he considered to be the seminal images that represented the reality of the American Dream. Borensztein titled the above photo Father with Two Sons. That’s little MIT there on the left. This photo has since been displayed in countless art museums around the world, as well as in a multitude of magazines and newspapers as part of the photographer’s American Portraits 1979-1989 collection.

I actually knew nothing of Borensztein or his well-loved American Portraits until thirty years after I stood for this photo. I had been casually flipping through a random magazine while waiting for the dentist, and came face-to-face with the picture of my own little dysfunctional family. The article’s author was comparing its depth and power to that of August Sander’s 1914 German photograph simply (and tragically) titled Widower:

Widower - August Sander

I’m not sure about all that, but it definitely has that same feel of despair, right? There’s a reason for that. Anyway, I called my father after the dentist appointment to see if he was aware that we were apparently icons of Americana. He was living in Florida at the time, on permanent disability from the Department of Corrections after being struck by lightning and blown off of his gun tower at a prison. He had suffered some significant injuries, and developed tinnitus as well as a subsequent dependence on government checks. And, of course, Oxycontin. He claimed no knowledge of the photo, and mused about seeking payment from the photographer before drifting off to a snoring sleep while still on the phone with me. Sigh.

Incidentally, a year later he dropped dead in the shower, after telling his third (or fourth?) wife to call an ambulance for his chest pain once he finished bathing. I sometimes wonder how long she sat in the living room watching TV and waiting for him to shut the water off, surrounded by her full ashtrays, cheesy paintings, and little ceramic figurines.

Anyway, per Borensztein, I am apparently a unique representative of America, circa 1979. Which gives me as much right to speak for our nation as anyone else – so it is my obligation to do so. As such, I can definitively say that we are appalled at how America has stumbled and fallen flat while under the influence of modern culture. Our response to all of the intentional destruction of everything traditionally American makes me think that we are suffering from some massive societal form of Stockholm Syndrome; we get beat, abused, insulted, and in some cases killed – only to step back up as a community and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Immaturity and blatant jealousy – once characteristics to be abandoned around the same time that we stopped wearing short pants and Keds – are now not only accepted in adult behavior, but promoted as virtues; especially among college students and professors, “community organizers”, and socialist-leaning asshats – I may have repeated myself three times there. Generation by generation, we have become either a population of selfish children walking around in adult bodies, demanding that we be valued and receive equal outcomes for just existing, or we are so frustrated with our inability to affect change in the world around us that we simply resign; refusing further participation. Either way, we have stopped taking full responsibility for our own future, instead, finding it far too easy to just complain, argue, and whine.

I am not immune to this modern American weakness. I definitely have my moments of jealousy, passive aggression, and surrender – I mean, damn, why don’t I get to blame the government, or the police, or “institutionalized” isms, or my crappy parents, or genetics, or evil businesses whenever I make a bad decision or fail at something? Most likely because my generation is not quite as adept at the whole victim mentality as the more recent ones are; I grew up with this odd core belief that if something goes wrong in my life or in my sphere of influence, I need to assess how my own decisions, actions, and motivations may have led to it. Which really puts a fucking kink in my occasional desire to feel entitled…or to see any benefit in our ever-growing government.

The Big Government effect

Despite all of the “positives” of a bigger government (I only used quotes there because I have yet to meet anyone who can actually identify any real positives that weren’t already covered in the framing of the Constitution), I believe that having a large and intrusive central government actually deteriorates society in two primary ways; citizens either get regulated into submission (which congeals into apathy), or they lose any sense of responsibility for their own lives and become totally dependent. Either way, the entire population is being oppressed by the government – some of them just don’t realize it. Those freedom-loving, rugged individualists – the personality types that founded and built this nation – are beaten down and eventually become bitter, passive, assholes, while the dependent ones just stand around, ever-alert for the next perceived offense, instruction, handout, or social media innovation.

Just the fact that so many Americans were rabidly supporting an avowed socialist to lead their country proves my point. Why? Because socialism is a happy, Utopian concept, that has never successfully worked in a society of human beings. If you understood history, Bernie Sanders would never have been a Presidential contender, nor would he have ever been elected to a public office to begin with. Socialism is wholly incompatible with human nature (especially within a truly free society), so proponents find themselves having to force it on a resistant population by controlling experiences, thoughts, and behaviors – and eventually by violence and fear alone. Socialism kills independence, motivation, invention, innovation, and eventually people. Every sixth grader knows that Hitler was responsible for the deaths of more than six million Jews, Christians, minorities, and homosexuals; but how many know that communism (the system that inevitably develops when socialism falters and requires forced compliance) is responsible for the deaths of more than one hundred million people? Oh, let’s hurry and steer our nation through that gateway to hell.

You wonder why Trump is faring so well, the world of The Walking Dead is so popular, or the Brexit happened? It’s because the true, freedom-loving individuals – who are the quiet, respectful, mature majority in Western society – are growing tired of being forced to carry the bloated body of European-style modern liberalism. The constant attacks on the existence of any absolute truth; the rise of class warfare, racial divides, political correctness, indignation over things we personally didn’t suffer, guilt over things we personally didn’t do, thoughts becoming crimes, revisions of history, contrary speech being silenced, and the media and the schools working to ensure that each subsequent generation is more ignorant than the previous – and where has it all gotten us? The very fabric of a strong, successful, and unified American society has broken down, and the truly progressive nation of my youth has become unrecognizable, unpalatable, and ugly. No wonder we are all so ready to just say, “Fuck it! Let’s throw a Trump into the middle of Washington DC, grab some popcorn, and see what happens.”

As for the Walking Dead connection? You love an apocalypse story because it allows you to imagine a life free of the chains hung on you by Washington DC, state and local governments, personal debt, your job, and our exceedingly weird society. No more trying to survive each day surrounded by cultural tripwires that send up flares of whiny bullshit whenever you do something that somebody, somewhere may find offensive. No more avoiding posting a conservative comment on Facebook because you fear the endless liberal backlash from your friends of friends. No more feeling like you are disappearing a little more each day, sipping cold coffee as you sit in yet another traffic jam, wondering if that pain behind your eye is a tumor. After the complete collapse of society, we would live in the present and be focused on personal survival; immaturity, hyper-sensitivity, divisiveness, and entitlement would all be met by either zombies or bullets. Folks would either produce and participate or get left behind. And the best part of the Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse? No one had to do anything or risk taking a stand to change the world! Society just ended, right? After the apocalypse, everything became local; leadership became approachable and ultimately changeable, and everyone was judged on their behavior and what they can actually do for the community – not what they looked like, where they came from, what they believed, or how loudly they could bitch. That return to a simple life in a free community, devoid of political correctness, deaf politicians, overbearing regulation, or mindless media, is appealing.

In America, we were a nation born of people tired of being controlled and dominated; who wanted the freedom to live their own lives as they chose. They just wanted the ability to pursue happiness and success on their own terms, but not expecting any guarantees. Especially not at the expense of their neighbor. No, it wasn’t perfect; there were apparently assholes back then too. But that doesn’t negate the whole amazing concept of a society founded on individual freedoms, and it doesn’t negate the fact that we are the legal heirs to that concept. The freedom to do whatever the fuck we want with our time, our money, and our bodies is our birthright as Americans. And that has been taken away from us, piece by piece, while we were busy sitting around and watching TV.

Yes…there’s work involved

Unfortunately, with no zombie hordes on the horizon, it looks like we’re going to have to actually stand up and take action if we are ever going to reclaim that birthright. I would suggest you take the time to read the Declaration of Independence to see why our country is here, and then read the U.S. Constitution to see how it’s supposed to work; then we’ll at least a have a shared road map to show where we’re trying to get back to. Either that, or a clear reminder of what we have lost forever.

The wolves ruining our nation don’t want you to know this, but there are more than a hundred million Americans right now who are just as fed up as you are with Washington DC, the media, the taxes, the regulations, the lies, the corruption, and the constant social agitation. A hundred million individuals who just want to be left alone to live their lives, raise their families, and pursue happiness and success freely as they define it for themselves. A hundred million people just like you.

If one person can change the world, then I’m pretty fucking sure that a hundred million people should be able to rescue one country from the hands of those who would destroy it. The only challenge will be in standing up at the same time – because scattered groups of ten or twenty will get picked off quietly and reported as odd extremists. But when ten million march into the halls of Congress to personally deliver pink slips to every egotistical, self-serving bastard in there, or ten million march across the lawn of the White House to take it back from the destructive likes of the Bushs, Clintons, and Obamas – the only option for them all will be surrender. To pack up their shit and go back to their hometowns to get real jobs – probably for the first time in their lives. I’d love to watch Barack Obama try to assemble a fucking sandwich at a Subway in Chicago, wearing a green apron and a little hand-printed Barry name tag.

Of course, the political and media elites are counting on you being too lazy, selfish, ignorant, and apathetic to do anything other than complain under your breath; and believe me, the rest of the leaders around the world need for you to stay silent. Understanding personal freedom is a powerful thing, but it’s considered a disease by those whose rule is maintained by force or fear. A very visible American public standing up to their oppressors might actually give others hope, and before you know it, everyone will want to be free. People all over the world will suddenly think that it’s somehow their right as a human being to spend their one life, their briefest of stays on this planet, doing whatever they want to. And people like that just can’t be effectively controlled.

But here’s the ultimate universal truth; we are all equal in value and rights. We all have the inalienable right to be who we want to be; to pursue our own happiness; to spend our time how we wish; to personally benefit from our own hard work; to not have our property taken by others, and to not submit to authority or structure unless we choose to. I am not suggesting anarchy, there are significant benefits in coming together as a society, in consolidating certain efforts for the benefit of all. But when that structure becomes oppressive, unfair, corrupt, and panders to select factions at the expense of others, it has gotten lost in the weeds and must be reset onto the path.

This is your one shot at life on Earthand none of us are going to make it out of here alive. So be reasonable, be nice, be fair, and keep a sense of humor, but don’t take shit from the politicians, the dividers, the self-important talking heads, and the entitled whiners. And never, never give away your freedom – it’s all you really have.

One person can make a difference.

A Billion Lives Header

First, I’ve been called out

Greg Conley, President of the American Vaping Association called out my last blog as being far too much doom and gloom on the future of the industry. And it got me thinking about this struggle to keep quality vaping available in the U.S. It’s obviously a highly charged topic. Whether you’re a former smoker who doesn’t want to lose the ability to manage your nicotine in a way that won’t leave you dragging an oxygen tank around for the last few sputtering years of your life; a business owner who is trying to keep paying employees while also putting food on your own table; or a non-vaping advocate for true freedom – who is horrified that the government is waging this type of unprecedented (and unethical) war on an incredibly beneficial innovation.

Anyway, the more I thought about Conley’s comments, the more I realized that he may have had a point. Not that there isn’t reason for anger – towards both those who attack vaping and those who represent it poorly – but getting too frustrated can be counterproductive. After all, driving your opposition to impotent anger, then hopelessness, and finally silence…defeat, has been an effective psychological tactic in all societal conflicts. And the anti-vaping front (anti-personal freedom front, to be clear) is practiced at waging this kind of campaign.

So I’m going to change things up this time around by focusing on something positive – the fact that one person with belief can actually make a difference. Although many of you may have your own stories proving this point, and history is obviously full of them, I want to tell a vaping-related one that I became aware of awhile back and have followed intently.

By now you know that the documentary A Billion Lives will be premiering in the United States on August 6th. What you may not know is how critically important it was for Molecule Labs (manufacturer for vape liquid brands such as Cuttwood, Halcyon, VonVape, and Volcano, among others) to step up with a significant sponsorship of the after-party. Without that commitment, the North American premiere (and the noise around it) would have been delayed. In the film publicity game, success is gaining wide attention – which is best accomplished with the one-two punch of a well-attended premiere screening, and a huge, crowded, highly publicized after-party. Large sponsors are always necessary to make these events successful.

As a result of Molecule Labs’ support for vaping and belief in the importance of this documentary, there will not only now be a timely North American premiere (a mere two days before the FDA regulations start kicking in), but also five weeks of increasing media attention (traditional and social); highlighting the corrupt, unethical, and borderline evil opposition to what should be hailed as the largest public health advancement since germ theory. We are in a critical period in the history of vaping, public health, and freedom, and this couldn’t be coming at a better time.

It’s what the vaping community, the uninformed general public, and the lives of tens of millions of current U.S. cigarette smokers needed. And I’ve got to acknowledge, Molecule Labs stepped up for this when so many others in the industry declined to get involved.

Now back to my premise.

You now know what happened, but how it happened…that’s the story I want you to see.

Trying to save lives

There’s a woman in California named Ariana. She worked in corporate finance and had a very comfortable career. Ariana, like many (many) others, quit smoking cigarettes several years ago when she discovered vaping – this was after years of the normal gum, patch, hypnosis, and back-to-cigarettes runaround. Vaping was different, though – it worked. And that might have been the end of the story; she could easily have been just another person no longer smoking – going about her life of work, kids, and friends, just with a vape device in her purse instead of cigarettes.

But a month after putting down her last cigarette – in her mid 30s – she was diagnosed with an incredibly aggressive breast cancer. Thus began a long year of treatment; four months of intense, bi-weekly chemotherapy followed by numerous surgeries in the attempt to save her life.


In those times, those long, dark nights of the soul as they say, it’s not uncommon to reevaluate priorities; assess life choices differently. And Ariana was no exception. There wasn’t a history of cancer in her family, and she had none of the standard risk factors. In fact, genetic counseling calculated that her chances of developing the cancer that she had been diagnosed with was only 4%. Could her years of cigarette smoking have contributed to that 4%? Nobody could definitively answer the question. (Interestingly, her oncologist and surgeon did make it clear that they had no issue with her continuing to vape throughout treatment and beyond.)

Concerned that the years of cigarette smoking may have contributed to her cancer, along with the common knowledge of the other health challenges cigarettes are known to cause, Ariana began educating every smoker in her life about transitioning to vapor. Also, after battling through cancer, she had discovered that the corporate life didn’t appeal as much as it once had. Ariana ultimately decided to walk away from her career and do something with a more…significant purpose.

Pooling all of her resources, Ariana opened The Cheshire Club Vapor Boutique in Santa Rosa, California early this year. A vape shop unlike any that you have probably seen before. She had a passion for introducing cigarette smokers to vaping, with a goal of giving every smoker who wanted to quit a safer, healthier alternative. She chose a store environment that would make non-vapers comfortable. Her shop is truly an upscale retail boutique; professional, clean, and vape-free. Through extensive research while planning to open the store, she was well aware of the coming (and now looming) FDA regulations and state laws that could devastate the entire industry. But she apparently had faith that reason and truth would ultimately prevail in the vaping debate.

Taking action

To do her part, she insisted on advocating for the future of vaping by educating everyone – customers, acquaintances, and strangers – on both the benefits of vaping and the unethical attacks on the industry. She encouraged association membership, political involvement, and was eagerly awaiting the much-hyped documentary A Billion Lives – even sending her customers to YouTube at the end of each sale to watch the trailer.

When it was clear that the film had been completed, but there was no information about a release date in North America, she decided to contact Attention Era Media – the company that made the film – to see if she could help. Much of her money was already tied up in the newly opened store, but perhaps there was something she could do. After several weeks of trying to coordinate a phone call with the very busy staff at Attention Era, she was finally able to speak with one of the film’s producers. He told her that obtaining sponsorships for events and publicity around the premieres would be the most effective way for the industry to help support the film.

Ariana set about contacting other vapor retailers and vendors to see who might be interested in helping to promote A Billion Lives by sponsoring events or media. To her dismay, the reactions ranged from no knowledge of the film (or even of the FDA regulations for that matter) to very small possible donations. Disappointed but undeterred, she took it to the next level by researching the largest vaping companies that she could find in the U.S. Then, armed with nothing more than front desk phone numbers and the usually ignored info@ email addresses, she and her small staff started reaching out.

Their persistence finally resulted in a phone conversation with Mike Guasch, President of Molecule Labs. Guasch was interested and thought that getting the film out could be an important step in gaining public support for the industry. But, of course, he would have to see it first.

The first North American showing

Ariana immediately recontacted Attention Era to find out how to facilitate Guasch seeing the finished documentary. The only way, she was told, was to fly one of the producers from Wisconsin to California with the film on a hard drive. She agreed immediately and, after checking credit card balances and counting up frequent flyer miles, cobbled together an itinerary; booking the plane tickets and hotel rooms.

Then, on a recent Monday evening, Guasch, as well as Molecule Labs’ Chief Flavorist William Ruiz, and Production Manager Carl Rice, made the trip to Santa Rosa – to Ariana’s Cheshire Club Vapor Boutique – to see A Billion Lives. After introductions and some small talk, everyone found a seat in front of the flat screen TV that hangs on the wall of the sales floor.

“Then Jesse from Attention Era stood in front of the screen,” Ariana recounted. “And said, ‘Just so you all know, you are the first people in North America outside of Attention Era staff to see this completed film.’ And then he hit play.”

A Billion Lives at CCVB

“As the credits rolled at the end, Mike Guasch stood and said, ‘Everybody…non-vapers and vapers, need to see this.'”

And that began the conversation between Molecule Labs and Aaron Biebert. The conversation that led to what promises to be a huge event in August. One that can, and I believe will, start changing the tide on vaping.

Because A Billion Lives, once seen, cannot simply be forgotten.

The politicians, the FDA, the tobacco companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and the “public health” non-profits will have nowhere to hide once this documentary hits its stride. Their tactics and true motivations will be laid bare for all to see.

I spoke with Aaron Biebert yesterday regarding this, and he said, “This truly is a modern David vs. Goliath fight, and we’re proud to be on David’s side…and more importantly, the right side of history.”

And of Ariana, he said, “A billion smokers dying when 70% want to quit is unacceptable. Without folks like Ariana, we’d never have the groundswell of support that we have now. These passionate leaders have been crucial to building the movement.”

The North American premiere of A Billion Lives on August 6th, the critical Molecule Labs sponsorship of the after-party, and the media attention that is about to happen around this premiere can be traced back to one person just trying to make a difference.

I admit that I had started to become cynical of the true power of individuals in all of this. Not “individuals” like Biebert and Guasch – but everyday people like me. Like Ariana. Perhaps like you.

You are one person, and advocating for our ability to continue vaping is meaningful. Perhaps the most meaningful thing we will ever get the opportunity to be involved in. Don’t give up and don’t just depend on the associations and the lawyers – keep taking action yourself; never stop pushing.

Because you never know what your next letter, email, phone call, or coffee shop conversation is going to lead to.

Why vaping can’t survive.


Houston, we’ve got a problem.

A lot has happened since my last post. Unfortunately, not much of it has been positive. This makes me very sad, since I am a firm believer in the absolute, life-saving benefit of vaping as an option for cigarette smokers.

I have been talking with quite a few people and had been putting my faith in a number of big players – people who had (behind closed doors) pledged both the support and the money necessary to take this fight for vaping to the level it needs to go.

Where are they now? Your guess is as good as mine. They have apparently gone underground, and taken their checkbooks with them. If you are reading this and wondering if it is you who I am referring to, the answer is most likely yes.

So, let’s see where we are otherwise:

  1. Polling shows that now even more of the general public (including current cigarette smokers) believe that vaping is worse for you than lighting shit on fire and inhaling it. To note – these current smokers are the potential vapers of the future. Their numbers dwarf the population of people who vape today. But each day, they move farther from the point of giving vapor a try. This is mostly due to the continued, coordinated, and well-funded anti-vaping bombardment by public health, and partially due to one particular law firm that has absolutely flooded national press release channels with stories of exploding e-cigarettes in the hopes of netting class action clients. Lawyers, who can conveniently no longer sue cigarette manufacturers thanks to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, are now realizing that vapor products are a whole new potential field full of meandering cash cows. In the couple of months since I first started writing about the importance of the general public, we have actually gone backwards.
  2. The majority of vape businesses either remain ignorant and isolated, or they are holding back on participating in a truly combined front – perhaps in the hope that they will somehow remain the only business standing in their market. I even had a large retail vapor business owner – one who was very well informed about the coming regulatory challenges – theorizing that if the other shops and manufacturers panicked and closed their doors, all of the customers would have no choice but to come to him. He’s not alone in this. There is an actual business strategy underway that depends on the bad press, advocacy infighting, and regulatory threats to knock off the competition. On second thought, perhaps that answers the question that I started this blog with.
  3. HR2058 and the Cole-Bishop Amendment both seem to be stuck in quicksand. Despite gaining a total of 65 co-sponsors, HR2058 hasn’t actually budged since it was first submitted to the Health committee thirteen months ago. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives – 218 for a majority. If it took over a year to get 65 co-sponsors, how long will it take before the bill ever sees a vote in the House? Not to mention that passage there only guarantees that it will then start the process over again in the Senate. What are the chances that the industry can survive long enough under the pending FDA regulations for a predicate date change to actually make a difference? I’m beginning to suspect that this option will end up like that time in high school when you finally got the Pinto started only to discover that your date already hitched a ride home with some college guy. And then she would never take your phone calls again.
  4. Vapor retailers, liquid makers, and device manufacturers are just crossing each day off of their calendars – trying to do business as usual – without fully realizing the nuclear bomb that is whistling out of the clouds above them. There is so much confusion about what specifically is going to happen on August 8th, that no clear guidance has emerged. The consequences of giving bad advice in this situation are so immense, that the leaders are just clearing their throats nervously, kicking pebbles at their feet, and doing the old wait-and-see. How many retail vape shops in California have obtained their local tobacco license? How many understand that they will no longer be able to build coils or change atomizers for a customer? How many are clear on signage, advertising (potentially no internet, email, or social media posts without a 30 day written notification to the FDA for each one?), and store setup requirements? How many liquid manufacturers know that there is only a slightly better chance than none that the companies they buy their flavor bases from will provide ingredient lists, or even register their flavors with the FDA as tobacco products? How many consumers are aware that they don’t just have two years of nothing new before they have to really start worrying…but that by March of next year – just nine months from now – the vast majority of their favorite liquids will most likely be off the shelves?

Avast, thar be sharks here!

As an aside to number 4, I have talked with several labs in the U.S. who are working to reverse engineer the flavoring ingredients used in vape liquids – so they will be able to provide those to the FDA even if the original flavor manufacturers refuse to. Sounds good, right? The ethical challenge is that these labs plan to use this information to (a) strong-arm current liquid brands into paying to stay in business, or (b) wait until your favorite brand goes under and then begin manufacturing their abandoned liquid line to pick up the established customer base. And what about the new army of vape consultants who have emerged from the fog? Primarily failed vaping industry insiders who now travel around and charge for advice on how to survive the coming vapocalypse. The problem? None of them truly believe that it can be done – and it’s no skin off of them if their advice gets you fined, your inventory confiscated, or your business shut down. It’s beginning to look like the whole industry is attracting circling vultures…and unfortunately most of them are coming from within it. A shop owner recently said to me, “Screw it, I’m just going to make as much money as I can in the next two years and move on.”

Ah, so you’re in it to help cigarette smokers, are you?

Overall, I am no longer feeling quite as positive about our chances – especially with the deadlines rumbling forward unabated, and the significant realization that hit me this morning while vaping and waiting for my coffee to brew.

This fight is bigger than I originally thought

I realized that the government can’t allow vaping to survive. I didn’t say won’t – I said can’t. Why? Because vaping didn’t come from them. Now, some of you have already realized this – but remember, I never claimed to be the smartest one in the room! What I do know is that we live in a society managed by a heavy-handed (dare-I-say) big brother – one that believes he knows what’s best for you better than you do. We created that environment though – or our parents did…or our grandparents.

When we (or they) handed the reigns of our governance over to the new career politicians so that we could focus on following our bliss, we planted the seeds of the situation we are currently reaping. And although the challenges this has created in our society are numerous and complicated, the one I am focused on is our right to vape nicotine.

I wrote previously that the vape industry is a grass-roots, consumer-driven response to a massive government failure (is there any other kind?). That failure is two-fold; the failure of all policies, programs, and regulations to do anything meaningful to curtail cigarette smoking, and the failure of a government that has become dependent on money from tobacco, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and media companies.

So on one hand we are fighting against deeply embedded corruption; fueled by cash, dinners, vacations, and prostitutes – gifts from certain industries for certain accommodations. And on the other hand (and this is important), we are fighting against a larger group of well-meaning politicians who would never think of taking money for favors – but who have built their entire careers, lifestyles, and lives on a belief that the collaborative structure of Big Government is able to direct your life in a manner more effectively than you can. And to this group of civil servants, it is unacceptable that the citizens could come up with a solution to something that is both more effective than the government tact, and that didn’t even involve the government to begin with.

Plainly stated, if the people prove that they can effectively solve a problem that the government has failed miserably at for decades – then what message does that send about the need for ever-larger government involvement in everything else? What does it do to those with a core belief that the people need the government to manage their lives?

Oddly, the growth of the vaping industry and its impact on cigarette smoking has highlighted – perhaps better than anything else in modern history – that the effectiveness of government does have a limit…and that we have clearly moved beyond it. The people, you and I, can solve our own problems without the assistance of Washington D.C.

And that is ultimately why vaping must be destroyed. The slippery slope of individual self-determination and self-sufficiency – the realization that we can actually survive and succeed without governmental intrusion – is like kryptonite to career politicians. It makes them weak and unnecessary.

So, we have governmental corruption on one side, a dangerous governmental need to be needed on the other, and vultures within the industry trying to already eat people that aren’t dead yet.

Any suggestions?

Of course! Over the span of my life I have dealt with numerous business CEOs, and their number one complaint as leaders seems to be, “People always come to me to highlight the problems, but never to suggest solutions.” So I personally developed a habit of always trying to balance one with the other.

As for the larger issue of our government actually overstepping its usefulness, I won’t address that here. That’s an entire series of blogs unto itself. And, to be perfectly honest I really don’t want to get audited, framed, or appear on TMZ with an underage prostitute Photoshopped onto my lap. I’m sure you understand.

Then what is my suggestion for the vaping issue – adjusted for recent events?

It hasn’t changed much from past blogs, since I believe we still have the same crappy public perception issues we started with a couple of months ago. But the sparkle on my positive outlook has definitely faded a bit since being exposed to the odd silences from vaping industry and association leadership on the significant issues, as well as seeing the looting and cannibalization already underway among the vaping business community.

What has changed is that I am narrowing my support down to only two things now; the industry coalition lawsuit against the FDA, and promotion of the film A Billion Lives. I support the consolidated lawsuit because I believe it is the only chance the industry has at this point to delay or stop the complete destruction of quality vaping in the United States before we lose thousands of small businesses and jobs – as well as millions of lives.

And the documentary? Because we still need the general public to see the lies and corruption behind the attack on vaping – and A Billion Lives is already done, it’s amazing, and it’s ready to do just that. Unfortunately, it appears that many of the individuals and companies who have made fortunes on the growth of vaping – fortunes off of you – are hesitant to fund the release of the film or it would have been out already. I’m not sure how much clearer I could have made it in my last couple of blogs.

Perhaps it’ll be be up to us – you and I – the people who just want the ability to keep managing our nicotine without simultaneously killing ourselves.

a billion lives

Ultimately, A Billion Lives may end up being the vape industry’s epitaph; which would be unfortunate. But not nearly as unfortunate as the billion lives that the title refers to.

Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, and coworkers – lost to corruption; lost to career politicians seeking significance; lost to greed. And lost to apathy.

There is still time…but I won’t be able to repeat that for much longer.

The vaping fight: join or die.

vape advocacy

I was asked to Guest Blog. So this article can be found HERE.

Saving a billion lives.

a billion lives

An inconvenient truth.

Documentaries work.

Whereas popular media such as TV shows, news broadcasts, music, and feature films soften the population’s opposition to certain ideas – or create a somewhat intangible, fuzzy support – documentaries can inspire real, active change.

The current revival of the environmentalist movement can be tied directly to the release of Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth; the U.S.’s Affordable Care Act would never have gained the momentum it did without Sicko; and what about all of the people who now protest against the justice system and law enforcement due to Paradise Lost or Making a Murderer?*

Those few documentaries inspired more passionate action and societal change than the entire historic catalog of books, films, breathless news reports, and TV shows about natural disasters, incompetent healthcare systems, and wrongfully accused individuals.

There’s just something about a 90-minute visual education piece on a compelling topic that moves people; especially when there is a David vs. Goliath story at the core. Americans love the concept of underdogs fighting against some sort of injustice – especially when it’s institutionalized. The larger, greedier, more dishonest, and heartless the opponent, the more people will sit up and take notice; righteous indignation turning their knuckles white.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I have no connection with Aaron Biebert, or any of the people at Attention Era Media who have made the documentary called A Billion Lives – which is the equivalent of An Inconvenient Truth, Sicko, and Making a Murderer for the vaping / tobacco harm reduction issue.

I just know an effective thing when I see it.

I have already covered the importance of gaining traction with the general public; that inattentive and borderline apathetic massive sea of people who are spending significantly more time wondering who Negan killed than considering the devastating implications of a government agency unilaterally shutting down an entire industry without cause.

Keep in mind, you don’t need these people to get out of their La-Z-Boys, put on shoes, and picket for your right to vape. You just need them to get to a point of positive indifference – meaning they still won’t personally care about vaping, but they will see nothing wrong with you doing it.

Positive Indifference

Here is an example of what positive indifference looks like. I personally love women; I am married to a woman and can’t ever see that changing – it’s just right for me. But I don’t oppose your desire to marry whoever or whatever you want; same sex, a cat, Siri, your Dyson vacuum – it doesn’t matter to me. And although I’m not going to go out and fight for your right to marry an appliance, I’m also not going to support anyone who is trying to stop you from doing it.

The power of positive indifference is this; when the general public doesn’t oppose your cause, then the actions of a small, passionate minority can make exponentially more progress with regard to public policy. And when you are bullied in your quest, the public will react like an older brother who goes to the same high school as you; he’s not going to leave his place on the bench to get involved in your drama, but he will tell your bully to just leave you the hell alone.

That’s exactly why A Billion Lives is critically important right now. It will change the public stance from opposition to positive indifference – and that’s all you need it to do.

Supporting ‘A Billion Lives’

With independent films like A Billion Lives, the options are usually (a) hit film festivals in the hopes of a distribution deal, (b) coordinate independent showings, or (c) strike a deal with streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO, or Apple. All of which can take time and delay a film’s release by years.

Thanks to your opponents, you don’t have years to get this story before the public. You have…right now.

The worst thing that you can do at this point is to just assume that A Billion Lives will magically hit theaters and attract mainstream attention. It’ll take sponsors (money), widespread vape industry support, and a massive grassroots publicity campaign. It’s going to take you getting involved and helping Biebert to get this message out in a way that the public and the media won’t be able to ignore.

The timing of this film’s completion is serendipitous, to say the least. An aligning of the planets. But if you are going to benefit from it, you are going to have to make it happen. Fast.

I’m telling you, it’ll be worth it.


* I am not condoning any of these documentaries or their outcomes, I’m just using them as examples of the potential power documentaries can wield.