Vape Chip Wants To Prevent Teenage Vaping, But At What Cost?
Numerous laws, requirements, and mandates exist with the aim to prevent teenage vaping, yet the overall effectiveness of these initiatives remains a topic of debate. In response, one former e-liquid maker has come up with a new solution: RFID chips in vapes that can better track who is purchasing them. While the move might seem like a strong step in the right direction, it is fair to say that the path ahead could be fraught with potential problems, not the least of which involves reigning in law enforcement overreach.
How is the Tracking Going to Work?
Trace/Verify is an RFID chip that can be installed in a device, e-liquid bottle, or any vaping related item that is age-prohibited. When an adult buyer purchases the item, their state-issued ID is scanned and stored onto the chip. This way, if an underage user is caught with the item, the authorities can scan the chip to find the original purchaser or vendor. The person whose information is stored on the chip can be held responsible for giving the item to a minor.
Nipping it in the Bud
The chip is designed to eliminate straw purchases, where someone of legal age buys a large number of vapes, then resells them to underage buyers. The creator of the Trace/Verify software, Dave Morris, cites a National Youth Tobacco Survey that found underage vapers often get their goods from adult buyers or people they know. The survey also discovered that a significant number of underage users tried vaping due to peer pressure.
Morris saw the high rates of teenage vaping as a challenge that the vaping industry was too indifferent to be concerned about. The Trace/Verify software is meant to help adult buyers and vendors alike make the right choices that will prevent teen vaping from increasing. Morris is also self-serving in creation of the software , seeing it as a means to avoid further industry limitation.
Trace/Verify or Follow/Spy?
While Morris initially had privacy concerns when creating the software, the data that the chip gathers is not in and of itself considered sensitive data. It merely lists the buyer’s name and state, which would only be useful to authorities who want to track down the original buyer. The search can continue by authorities running that information through DMV databases to obtain much of the information authorities may want on the accused.
Will Vape Companies and Customers Sign-On?
The response from the vape industry to Trace/Verify has been mixed, with only one company agreeing to adopt Morris’ software and use the RFID chip on their products. The response from vapers has been similarly subdued, with some suggesting the system may be a good idea, while others believe it is an overreaction to a problem that could be better handled through regular ID checks and fines-specifically, that which already exists.
It is fair to say that the vaping industry does have a responsibility to the public to help curtail teenage vaping levels. However, it is also true that the notion of using mass tracking technology to monitor and enforce accountability of a legal practice does raise some concerns—particularly due to the potential for overreach by law enforcement. Whether Trace/Verify can effectively eliminate the illegal purchase of vaping products by teens remains to be seen. For the time being, the best approach for combating underage vaping may still be plain old-fashioned ID checks and enforcement of the existing laws.