In July I travelled to the US for a couple of trade shows. It was a flying visit of just six days that I referred to as my ‘bong and dong’ tour. In the short period of a week, I felt the fear in the US psyche and the embarrassment of being a ‘laid back Aussie’.

This was the first time I had travelled domestically in the US. Wow! I wonder if the security regime is there to give the public a sense of fear or there really are very serious threats of terrorist activity on US domestic travel. Everyone is subjected to a 360 degree body scan. All shoes, even thongs must be removed and put through an x-ray and you cannot take a bottle of water or a bottle of anything through security. The regime certainly gave me a sense of fear.

My first convention was the LA AMNE adult toy show. There were some wonderful inventions there and the use of new technologies to enhance even the simplest of toys was ingenious. There were a number of mainstream companies that have started to add ranges of sexual health and enhancement products. Sadly most of them cannot be sold in Australia. When I mentioned this to a couple of the exhibitors they looked at me oddly. Why? They have been approved by the FDA or are so innocuous that the most governments around the world are not the slightest bit interested, except Australia. Seriously it was embarrassing to acknowledge the nanny state I call home.

Things didn’t get much better in Las Vegas. There I attended Champs. It is described as the largest counter-culture trade show in the world. You would think that counter culture and trade show would be mutually exclusive. I mean if it has a trade show it is no longer a counter culture.

The show had well over 600 exhibitors featuring every variety of bong and other smoking or vaping device. There were literally tens of thousands of products. My favourite had to be the one that looked like an Asthma inhaler. Although I was also quite taken with the smokeable texta colours! They enabled you to doodle on your rolling paper prior to using it.

Embarrassment set in soon after arriving at the convention. While speaking to the hundreds of stall holders about their amazing looking products I had to acknowledge that most would be illegal to sell in Australia.

If a product contains nicotine but is not tobacco then it is illegal to sell in Australia. In fact it may be illegal to even possess in some states. And that beautiful sky blue and silver vaping unit… well that’ s illegal even if it doesn’t hold nicotine. Of course the irony was that if the vape could take a herbal substance like tobacco (wink) then it was quite legal.

I could see the disbelief spread over the exhibitors faces when I told them that we were challenging a supreme court ruling that even if a vape doesn’t look like a tobacco product it is because of how it is used. ie holding in hand to putting to mouth.

I didn’t even bother to admire the amazing glasswork (bongs) on display. It was just too embarrassing to stop and explain that bongs are banned in the lucky country. The only one I did stop and look at was the bong you can make from ice (ie frozen water) which I suspect would be legal to sell in most states.

There were some fantastic health products but when looking at the ingredients, Yohimbe would appear. Nope prohibited. Some of the vendors were quite incredulous. “What do you mean Yohimbe is banned? Come on…. in this dose it is unlikely to have anything but a placebo effect.” Where are you from Iran? Aaah no… Australia.

Throughout Las Vegas people would hear our accent and say, “ I love you Aussies you are so laid back and fun.” Well that was until we told our dirty little secrets. The government bans everything!

Seriously we can’t sell bongs in most states, we can’t sell vapes in a number states and of course medicinal cannabis still hasn’t happened here.

Finally one highlight of the trip was a tour of the terrific Mob Museum (organised crime). It mapped out the rise of organised crime in the US. And in the beginning there was … Prohibition.

BTW the court appeal to stop a ban on the sale of e-cigs or vaporizers is about to start in WA. If you would like to find out more about it or how you can help. Please drop me a line. fiona@eros.org.au

line up at the mob museum