Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Alibaba to Stop Sales of E-Cigarettes to U.S. Buyers (wsj.com)
48 points by JumpCrisscross 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

I'm bothered by the fact that most if not all news websites don't differentiate between nicotine and THC vapes. They're completely different. Illicit THC vapes are what's killing people.

Yeah as far as I read the problems were linked to illicit THC cartridges purchased on the streets tainted with hydrogen cyanide. A recent hacker news discussion about it.


Street drugs have always had problems with contaminants, whatever kinds of drugs they are. Unfortunately prohibition and black markets tend to lead to this sort of problem.

The latest CDC statements have still been that there hasn't been a single common ingredient found in all the cases. And there have been something like 10% of the cases that claim to have only used tobacco and not any THC vapes.

The guy that died in Oregon was using a legal vape from a regulated dispensary.

News publications do a disservice by over-playing the danger, and not differentiating between thc and tobacco, or street products and regulated thc and large nationwide brands like juul. But I don't think you can fully write this off yet either. I'm personally still avoiding vaping for the time being.

Why would you add cyanide to a product you’re selling?

According to Wikipedia, some countries use hydrogen cyanide as an ingredient in pesticide.

To be a bit more precise: myclobutanil degrades into HCN when heated to vaporization temperature

The process of extracting and concentrating THC can also extract and concentrate this pesticide.

Imidacloprid is another pesticide with harmful effects that has been found on cannabis, but seems to be toxic itself (rather than it's byproducts)

Source: https://www.planetnatural.com/marijuana-pesticides/

Pretty sure they meant "for a product for human consumption" :)

they don't, the heating process makes molecules bind to other molecules forming cyanide.

It's both, actually. People have been counterfeiting Juul pods and they have the bad chemicals in them as well. Pretty nasty problem actually.

I may be a conspiracy theorist, but I think it's a deliberate misinformation campaign.

It is a deliberate misinformation campaign.

There are multiple issues being conflated (flavored vapes advertised to minors, vapes causing deaths) and kneejerk reactions from governments are occurring because they are not being paid off enough by the companies selling similar products.

I'm kind of torn on this.

On one hand it seems ridiculous to me when I read that the FDA is investing Juul for advertising to minors citing the fact that their ads included "bright colors" and young adult models as evidence of that. That's very clearly bullshit, and we wouldn't hold anyone else to that insane standard.

On the other hand, it also seems insane that the tobacco industry knew their product was both addictive and killing people, and that they lied about that for decades even spending massive amounts of money trying to intentionally mislead people into thinking otherwise, but instead of jailing executives and breaking up companies like Philip Morris/Altria we just let them continue to go on killing people for profit with barely a slap on the wrist.

I'd say that given their actions, the tobacco industry doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt, that everything they do should be considered first in the worst possible light, and that we'd be crazy not to question their motives at every opportunity.

I just can't bring myself to be sympathetic to the industry now even when I can see how people are overreacting. I realize there are new players in the game today, and entire secondary industries are getting caught up in the whole vaping thing too, but at the same time, anyone working anywhere near the tobacco industry should expect it. If we'd gone after them properly instead of letting them off the hook for 40 years of lies and countless deaths maybe I'd feel differently, but here we are.

What are you torn about?

Governments are banning Juuls overnight and not cigarettes. Even with Altria - an incumbent - as an investor it isnt preventing this curbstomping.

The relative morality is my main point.

You are talking about the entire nicotine/tabacco industry and that plays into this as well but its not really the point here. Yes theyve slithered into our society and nothing is going to be done about that. But the observation with e-cigs just highlights how fast anything could be done, which is sad.

> What are you torn about?

Well, on one hand I don't like feeling manipulated and this feels like manipulation with the media being disingenuous by blaming vaping itself for some bad black market products and constantly fear mongering for views and clicks. For months there have been literal protests going on against vaping. I seriously question if they're being paid. I don't know how vaping could possibly be what drives people to take to the streets in anger over everything else that's been going on. It's all a bit sketchy how strongly they've been beating anti-vape messages into our heads. And I don't even have a reason to be oversensitive to it, I don't vape. If the entire vaping industry died off tomorrow I wouldn't be impacted in the slightest.

It is the tobacco industry however and whatever comes, they pretty much have it coming to them. I can't really feel bad if the new fun cool way to consume their product is being bullied. Vaping solves a lot of issues people have with cigarettes. It's less stinky, tastes better, and is far more discrete (very important these days when people can't light up anywhere). I know some people think they are the ones behind the anti-vape movement, but if vaping dies the tobacco industry will suffer for it.

"Bright colors" and young adult models are the playbook that worked on cigarettes - they're just reusing proven tactics.

I guess the issue is that they are the exact same proven tactics everyone uses no matter who they are marketing to. Bright colors attract attention and young healthy people sell products. Companies that have zero interest in marketing to children employee both regularly in ads/media.

To be clear, I mean accusing tobacco companies of marketing to children because they have "bright colors" etc. is a proven strategy to extract big settlements from tobacco companies.

It's almost like there might be other motivations at play here.

Nicotine vapes are a problem too. They were meant to help people quit smoking, but instead introduced a lot of people who haven't smoked before.

I wonder if we could do some sort of blood test to make sure non-smokers don't get easy access to nicotine vapes.

Big Tobacco is behind all of this. Vaping would destabilize the farm grown tobacco industry, and it was just a matter of time...... Call me crazy, but it makes sense. Anyone can create their own vape juice, but how many people are willing to cultivate tobacco?

Does the nicotine in the vapes not come from tobacco? Is tobacco not involved in vapes at all? Why can't the tobacco companies make vapes?

Nicotine can be synthesized & sold online through sketchy markets like any other chemical.

Vaping just reopened generations of customers for business to a myriad of tobacco products, why would they choose to go back to their previous shrinking pool of poor or old cigarette buyers?

I smoked for 15 years but quit last August when I started vaping. I certainly feel a lot better, my senses of taste and smell are much stronger and I don’t get short of breath running up the stairs anymore. It seems almost too good to be true, I’m waiting for the report saying it’s like liquid asbestos.

I smoked for 5 years up to a pack and a half a day of max nicotine cigs. One day it's like a switch flipped in my brain and I couldn't stand the smell of cigarettes on myself and my clothes. That day I went out to get a vape.

After trying a bunch of flavors I got high, low, and no nicotine juices of the same flavor. Then over the course of a year an a half I mixed in less and less nicotine. Substituting around two drops of the higher for the lower every week.

One day I just put it down because it was a hassle and most importantly I wasn't addicted any more. It was that easy.

I still smoke 1 or 2 cigarettes a month when the mood is right in a social setting, but I will never buy a pack of cigarettes again.

the good news is that it's easier to quit vaping than smoking

I quit smoking for the vape. I had a cigarette the other day and there was a deeper buzz to it than the usual nicotine from the vape. So, I am inclined to agree.

Cheap Chinese products have been causing issues in the vape industry for years. It used to be knockoff batteries exploding, now we're seeing the harmful health effects of whatever cheap materials they're using to manufacture the coils.

The industry needs to be regulated, not outright banned.

>now we're seeing the harmful health effects of whatever cheap materials they're using to manufacture the coils.

This is the main part that I'm concerned about personally. There is a local place i go to back when i lived in the states where they would craft the juice for me on the spot, so I had peace of mind the juice was ok. But all of the coils were manufactured in china, and if manufacturers there were fine with tainted baby formula that killed infants, then nothing else has the guarantee of being safe.

The bans are temporary to allow investigation into cause —I think that’s prudent. If you go buy anyway despite the ban, that’s on you, it’s not happening with government imprimatur.

The problem with bans is as I'm currently experiencing with the mass dispensary shut down in Vancouver over the last few weeks, they don't stop dedicated people, they just push you to sketchier, less reliable and more questionable options.

> they don't stop dedicated people,

Ah, I wasn't addicted, I was dedicated. It all makes sense now.

So, the old ladies I'd see walking up the ramps with their walkers asking for CBD tablets and bath soaps were addicted? The quadriplegics and cancer patients I'd regularly see at the dispensery I used to go to were addicts? There are no more affordable places for actual medical patients to acquire their medicine. Personally, I like it for my back pain and it helps me sleep at night. I've worked a lot of physical jobs over the years. I'm in pain most days. Smoking weed genuinely helps with this.

Those aren't the only people looking for product. I didn't mean to cause any offense, just that there is a growing addiction problem with marijuana that people for the most part gloss over. But /r/leaves is one of the fastest growing subreddits for a reason.

>The bans are temporary to allow investigation into cause

If by investigate into cause" you mean "wait for the legislature to figure out a way to tax them to bring in the kind of money we're used to getting from cigarette taxes"

If it were primarily about safety they would be talking about manufacturing standards and regulations and testing (like it is with every other product consumers want), not about banning.

Could be both.

But I wholeheartedly agree with regulatory testing and compliance like any other drug.

Whens the last time the US government unbanned something?

The incandescent light bulb regulations were undone last month. I dunno if that counts as unbanning since the rules weren't coming into effect until 2020.

Dodd Frank was partially repealed last year

Industrial hemp production was also unbanned last December

Sure the federal assault weapons ban that expired on 2004.

Oh, forgot the other big one, restriction on embryonic stem cell research in 2009.

Alright 15 years

Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

> Whens the last time the US government unbanned something?

A number of types of transactions Americans might make involving Cuba were unbanned in 2016.

kudos for use of "imprimatur"

I'm blown away at how quickly this e-cig prohibition movement is taking root. As far as I can tell, all the horror stories have been from bootleg THC cartridges, rather than legitimate Juul pods. So banning sales of the legitimate product seems... counter-productive.

I suppose high school kids will just go back to smoking Swisher Sweets and chewing flavored Skoal pouches...

I don't really see how any of this is a positive direction.

It reminds me a lot of the moral panic around Four Loco when I was in high school, albeit on a seemingly larger scale.

Kids simply don't smoke swisher sweets or chew Skoal in anyhing anywhere at all approaching the numbers that have been vaping. Presenting that as some equivalent behavior that will dramatically increase vastly misses the mark.

We don’t really know how many kids are using any nicotine products. Its an emotional argument more than a statistical argument.

“Think of the children” has been used to justify so many things from alcohol prohibition to prohibition of short selling stocks.

We do know, it's not an emotional argument, there are standardized surveys that capture this. Yes, kids may lie, but the surveys are the same each time, so the overall trend will be accurate, even if the specific number is under-represents the phenomenon. If only half the kids using tobacco products admit to it, but the trend is going up or down, it still accurately portrays and increasing or decreasing trend.

Thing is I haven’t read where someone can say whether it’s contamination or whether it’s the high heat vaporization or the combo or something else which is causing this. So given they don’t have strong evidence, it would be negligent not to pull a product.

> Thing is I haven’t read where someone can say whether it’s contamination or whether it’s the high heat vaporization or the combo or something else which is causing this.

You can start here, this WaPo article talks about the contaminant, Vitamin E Acetate aka alpha-Tocopherol acetate, an ester of Vitamin E and acetic acid.


The PubChem article on this compound, first aid section recommends inhalation should be ceased ASAP. Also scroll down to the firefighting section, which recommends a respirator with an organic vapor/acid gas cartridge. This is because of the caustic nature of the compound when vaporized.


This article details finding from The Mayo Clinic that the lung tissue studies revealed chemical burns.


Obviously not conclusive, but also not a completely bizarre supposition that inhaling a substance that breaks down into a mild acid when vaporized might cause chemical burns.

People have been vaping tobacco products for years, and people didn't particularly like it, because it's the evil nicotine, and it gives some people a small amount of pleasure, but there were never any of these health problems.

Stopping the sale of the legitimate product, that does go through testing and quality control, because there is counterfeit and black market product out there fucking people up, is not going to reduce the supply of the questionable off-brand product.

We've done this enough times now, we should know what is going to happen.

So due to lack of evidence proving a negative, and whole industry should shutdown until such evidence is found?

It’s kind of odd all of these sort of comments are being downvoted. They seem like legitimate observations but they’re downvoted wholesale.

Yeah, I'm actually kind of shocked that even the hacker news community is so susceptible to this kind of moral panic.

Even the things they supposedly police e.g. name brand sunglasses, disney / lego stuff, etc. are very easy to find on Alibaba/Aliexpress.

They might bust a couple of stores as an example, but give it a few days at most and you'll be able to get the under the description "personal steam heater" or something similar (e.g. the "interlocking block toy" lego knockoffs) - there are indices mapping keywords to brands to help facilitate this [0].

[0] https://www.alimaniac.com/aliexpress-articles/brand-codes-co...

Curious how much of this is a trade war, screw the U.S. If vape supply dries up there could be a spike in tobacco use.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact