December 2016

Extreme Vapes: One Man’s Fight For Advocacy

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By Tony Ottomanelli II

Vaping has been beneficial for so many people worldwide that it’s difficult comprehending how others don’t see it that way.

My realization is that vaping, which has long been considered a harm reduction method for tobacco users, could also assist those going through recovery from addiction to illicit narcotics, specifically opiate-based substances.

Taking this into consideration, I randomly became familiar with an e-liquid manufacturer who has been making t-shirts in support of Walking For Wellness, a campaign created in May 2013, that seeks to raise heroin awareness in Missouri’s St. Charles County area.

This e-juice manufacturer was none other than eXtreme Vapes of Louisville, KY, led by business owner and vaping advocate, Jay Tower.

An excerpt from the eXtreme Vapes website reads: “eXtreme Vapes is a company created out of love and passion. We love good products and our passion is to create them for the customer.” When asked, Tower made it absolutely clear that he is in this business to save lives and help people switch from tobacco cigarettes, while simultaneously promoting heroin aware- ness through staunch advocacy efforts.

Heroin is an opioid and is in the same category as many prescription painkillers, including Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin. These illicit substances act as catalysts for some of the highest causes of preventable death; therefore more needs to be done to better combat this nationwide epidemic.

“Our mission is to help provide individuals [with] a safer alternative to smoking while still providing amazing flavors, and to raise money to fight back against big tobacco companies,” reads a highlight from the eXtreme Vapes website.

“eXtreme Vapes e-liquid currently offers three amazing flavors,” Tower said. “We are a proud member of KSFA (Kentucky Smoke Free Association). A dollar from every bottle sold wholesale is donated to this fund.” Donating a portion of sales from his minimal selection of products is a noble act, and shows Tower’s commitment to the vapor product industry.

eXtreme Vapes now has five flavors of e-liquid that they offer: Flavor God, Poppin’ Cherries, Daily Vape, Nightly Vape and Xtreme Cream. Flavor God is described as “a heavenly blend of strawnana and creams.” Poppin’ Cherries” is a “frosted doughnut cram-packed with mixed cherry-berry filling.” Daily Vape has a flavor profile that’s left to mystery and simply states, “You’re welcome. Thank me later.”

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The two newest additions Nightly Vape and Xtreme Cream are a New York style cheesecake, with hints of crushed pistachios with caramel drizzle, and a mix of berries and cream, respectively.

Supporting KSFA is a great example for other businesses to follow. Tower says that his main motivation for doing this was not simply to throw money at an advocacy group, but to try to help serve as a leader for other vaping businesses who are encouraged to follow suit.

In fighting the spread of opiate abuse and educating others, Tower speaks out as a recovering addict, an advocate, a survivor and a leader. In 2013, on Thanksgiving Day, his son’s mother overdosed on heroin and died at 23; she is survived by her 5-year-old son with Tower now being the sole guardian.

“I’ve learned in recovery to give back and help others, so I use that in my company and try to give back to the vaping industry and show everyone it’s not all about money for me,” Tower said.

He added, “It’s about sticking to my word and staying strong in this industry while helping others find a new way to live.”

At the time this article was written, four shops were carrying the eXtreme e-liquid product line since Tower started his business at the beginning of the year. It seems that Tower is on a steady path to gaining a broader customer base and adding another flavor to the lineup. With regard to his true feelings about the future of vaping, Tower believes some regulation should be imposed, yet the “overreach of the FDA’s regulatory process is [growing] out of control.”

The e-liquid company owner is somewhat hesitant and worried about the future status of vaping in the country, but he is also extremely excited for what his business could bring to the industry.

Tower and I discussed everything from vaping advocacy, to the potential harm caused by the FDA regulatory process on vapor products, to his primary motivation behind donating to KSFA, and his participation in Walking For Wellness.

Another interesting fact unearthed in our conversation was how Kentucky is the second largest producer of tobacco, and not surprisingly, many local legislators are attempting to pass regulations aimed at taxing vapor products and reducing their accessibility. In this period of uncertainty for what lies ahead for the vape industry, we need to take the time to recognize and thank, not only the businesses at the top tier of the revenue-earning pool, but also the leaders and symbols of advocacy and professionalism who own small businesses within the industry.

Tower is one of those leaders, paving the way for others to follow down a path of a multi-faceted movement in favor of harm reduction by utilizing more than one approach; reducing harm from tobacco and reducing harm from illicit drugs. So, it seems vaping can certainly become a fulfilling journey toward recovery for addicts. Tower agrees, that as a recovering addict, vaping has helped guide him in a direction towards a better life.

“Vaping keeps me so busy. I build coils, make juice, purchase ingredients and other vapor products,” Tower said. “I think it can most definitely be considered as another form of harm reduction for recovering addicts, like myself. I’ve experienced it firsthand.”

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