Has underage vaping become so out of control that companies are now going to add tracking chips to every vape, making them visible and traceable by law enforcement? It looks that way.
- The source of this idea is not someone you would expect either. Dave Morris, the creator of the Trace/Verify software, used to make e-liquid.
- Now, he sees his mission as a proactive defender of vaping.
- He wants to make sure vapes do not get into the hands of underage users.
Morris’ goal is to end youth access to vapes, as a way to prevent further legislation (see: flavor vape ban) from restricting the choices of adult vapers.
Is it a good idea, or is it bound to have problems of its own?
How It Works
Trace/Verify works by using an RFID chip installed in a device or e-liquid bottle or any vaping related, age-prohibited item.
- When an adult buyer purchases the item, they must present their state-issued ID to be scanned so it can be stored onto said chip.
- If an underage user is then caught with the item, authorities can scan the chip to find the original purchaser or vendor.
That is how the system is supposed to work. The conceit is that the person who’s information is stored on the chip will be held responsible (punished) for giving the item to a minor.
A former liquid manufacturer says that he has found a way to curb the youth vaping problem: a chip that you can't rip out of a vape. https://t.co/dlxRMAKHNj
— Alex Norcia (@Alex_Norcia) February 20, 2020
Only, what if the minor took the item without the adult’s knowledge, will they still be held responsible, fined, arrested?
Nipping it in the Bud
The chip is also supposed to eliminate straw purchases, where a person of majority buys a large number of vapes and then resells them to underage buyers. Morris cites a National Youth Tobacco Survey that found young vapers get their stock from adult buyers or people they know as an inspiration to create his software.
Adult influence is also a big reason why underage vapers are curious to try e-cigarettes. The same survey found that 30.8% of those surveyed said that they were tempted to try a vape because a friend or person they knew used it.
Of course, the chip is also supposed to target unscrupulous vendors who would sell to underage buyers.
But if the system requires a buyer to submit their ID for scanning, wouldn’t that already prevent an underage teenager from buying that item? Will a fake ID be processed the same way as a real one? If not, then the Trace/Verify system performs the same function as a simple ID check.
Morris was moved by his conscience to create this tech. As a member of the vape industry, he did not want to wash his hands of the problem of underage vaping like many vape manufacturers have. Trace/Verify is his response to a challenge to which the vape industry at-large is indifferent.
His goals are also self-serving. The Trace/Verify software is a means to an end. The end is not eliminating teen vaping, but protecting the industry and adult vapers from overregulation. Morris sees the industry’s inaction as self-sabotage. If it does not do something to tamp down on vaping by minors, the government will step in and do it for them, which is what has happened.
He states as much on his Facebook page. After writing that open system tanks and free-flow e-liquid will not be subject to the flavor ban, Morris says that
“it is more important than ever to live up to these expectations to avoid future over-regulation.”
Morris does also write about wanting to prevent a new epidemic of nicotine addicts. He also mentions that he wants to stop people from going back to cigarettes or the black market, which is what would happen if the government steps in with even more restrictions.
Trace/Verify or Follow/Spy?
Morris had stated, in an interview with Vice, that he had privacy concerns when he was initially creating the software. The data that the chip collects is, however, not of a sensitive nature. It only gives the buyer’s name and state. This information would only be useful to authorities who want to track down the original buyer.
Law enforcement could then run that information through a DMV database to find the person’s address or place of employment.
This brings up the issue of whether law enforcement is going to spend the time and resources to track a person down for what is at most a minor infraction. There are laws against giving alcohol or drugs to a minor, but there are none for providing a minor a vape.
Will Vape Companies and Customers Sign-On?
The response from the vape industry to Trace/Verify ranges from lukewarm to positive. As of this writing, only one company has said that they will adopt Morris’ software and use the RFID chip on their products. Whether or not other vape manufacturers will sign-on remains to be seen.
The response from vapers has also been tepid. With some saying that it is a good idea, while others feel that it is not. If the system were adopted universally, even adult vapers would have to show their ID to buy a vape product, which is something people may not be keen to do
Should vape companies start installing chips into vapes to prevent underage vaping? Or is it an overreaction to a problem that could efficiently be dealt with by regular ID checks and fines for violators, all things that currently exist. Send us your thoughts on whether Big Brother should be watching what you vape as well.