This opinion piece is part of an ongoing series on electronic cigarettes and vaping. It discusses what people are saying about what is said on Reddit. The views expressed are purely the opinion of the author, and do not represent those of Bedford Slims. Feedback is welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an e-cigarette experience worth sharing.
I've been reading a lot on Reddit about the new FDA rules for the vaping industry and the conspiracy theories surrounding them. I certainly don't have any special insight into whether or not they are true. But I do feel that, if they are true, there must be something fishy going on in the vaping Subreddits. In fact, I've heard people say that it is possible the government is using Reddit to spread misinformation and confuse the public about vaping.
Let's look at the facts:
The FDA's recent regulatory crackdown on the vaping industry was so severe that many people questioned whether there was more going on behind the scenes than met the eye. The agency declared that e-cigarettes and vaping equipment, including e-juice and individual flavors, will have to meet the strict testing before they could be sold to the public. This meant that vape shops and manufactures, which are mainly small businesses, would have to put up a small fortune just to get FDA approval for products they are currently already selling. For the many vaping enthusiasts out there who like that the industry isn't overly corporate, it felt like a massive government bureaucracy was beating up on the little guy. A few conspiracy theories have even arisen about a secret plan by powerful people to destroy vaping as we know it.
They've generally originated on Reddit, where discussions about vaping were already popular. And after the regulations were issued, vaping Subreddits became the primary place for people to discuss the possibility that there was an unfair anti-vaping crusade being undertaken by the federal government and big money interests. The hard evidence for these theories can be a little thin. Although in all fairness, there wouldn't be a conspiracy unless the conspirators were actively trying to keep it secret.
Nevertheless it does seem plausible that something fishy is going on, partly because so many of the parties involved have such shady histories. Take the FDA itself, which in the past has been has been said to get a little too friendly with the likes of Monsanto, Pfizer, etc. Manufactures of nicotine replacement products, largely massive pharmaceutical companies, are not very popular either. Then there's the tobacco companies, which most people agree have a long record of wielding their influence in a way that is almost cartoonishly unethical. And they obliviously haven't been too happy about the success that independent vaping companies are said to have had attracting customers who want to quit traditional cigarettes. It doesn't seem insane, people argue, to suggest that Big Tobacco or Big Pharma or both would engineer the creation of new federal rules that would drastically increase the cost of bringing a vaping product to market, crushing the small businesses and allowing large corporations to dominate the vaping market.
As with all conspiracy theories, the question is whether there was actual sinister coordination behind the scenes. It could just be that the government failed to consider the interests of small businesses because that's what governments tend to do. It's hard to tell from the outside.
It is interesting to consider, however, how deep the conspiracy goes - if it actually is real. I'm not sure if I believe it personally. But I've been thinking about it frequently and at length, and I believe that a true conspiracy would require some Redditors like you to be in on it.
The way I see it, there's a pretty good chance that the FBI and DEA and ATF monitor Reddit already. They probably watch people who sell products to each other or exchange information on rigs to catch any large scale illegal operations. And they've also probably noticed the massive popularity of discussions that the FDA has screwed over small businesses with its new regulations. So if the government had intentionally put the regs in place at the behest of the big pharma or tobacco companies, rather than for public safety, then they were probably getting nervous about Reddit threads that we're getting a little too close to the truth. And the best way to discredit attempts to get to bottom of what's happening would be to encourage the most outlandish, far-fetched ideas out there. It wouldn't be too hard. All the government would need would be a few dummy Reddit accounts.
There have been Reddit threads on how some of the conspiracy theories about the new FDA regulations go a little too far. There are complaints that people are accusing random government officials of being corrupt based on very little evidence. My point is that those voices could be the government itself trying to make sure that Reddit theories never seem credible to the general public.
I'm not saying that's what's happening, but some people are starting to say it. If there is a conspiracy, I think that government and/or corporate infiltration of Reddit has to be part of it. Agents might even comment on this post. I'll keep watching this post wondering if I might already know too much.