The vaping scene has been sent into shock, following an announcement by US President Donald Trump that his administration will pursue a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. The move comes after several supposed vaping-related deaths, and concerns about products being too accessible for minors. But is this an overreaction? And if the ban goes through, what would be the consequences for vapers around the country?
What’s the story?
Over the past few weeks, reports of vaping-related illnesses and even deaths have grabbed the media’s attention. In excess of 400 lung illness cases have been reported in more than 30 states, with the average age of those affected just 19.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a federal agency, must now come up with a plan to take all non-tobacco flavored vaping products off the US market. This is not the first time that the FDA has come for vaping, after the announcement of a “deeming deadline” in 2016. This promised to put tight restrictions on vape manufacturers, but the initial August 2018 deadline was pushed back to 2022 for non-combustible products.
There is some precedent for such an all-encompassing ban, with Michigan now prohibiting flavored e-cigarettes. San Francisco has gone further, with city lawmakers voting to ban e-cigarette sales altogether. According to Alex Azar’s press office, US Health and Human Services Secretary, the FDA’s full plan will be released in the “coming weeks.”
Why a vape ban would be a bad move
The US government must weigh up whether flavored e-liquids are a net benefit to public health. On one hand, these products are more attractive to those who have never vaped or smoked than regular tobacco cigarettes – especially youngsters. On the other, flavored vape juices have been a revelation for smokers who have tried and failed to quit. Nicotine e-liquids still offer the same hit, without exposure to all the nasty carcinogens in smoke.
The CEO of JUUL, the wildly popular vaping company, recognizes the current issue with flavored e-liquids, calling them “problematic.” However, JUUL could perhaps benefit from a flavor ban. This is because they have already stopped selling most flavored products. A ban would force other companies to compete with JUUL, the dominant brand in the vape pod market.
Obviously, children and teenagers getting hold of flavored nicotine e-liquids is a big problem. At best, they could end up with a nicotine addiction. At worst vaporizing these products could have serious health consequences. But why should law-abiding, vaping Americans be punished for something they have nothing to do with?
Moreover, even if flavored e-liquids are ultimately banned nationwide, these products wouldn’t disappear. Instead, they would likely re-emerge on the black market, where there are no quality checks, at all. Bootlegged vape pods are already a problem – particularly with marijuana. Indeed, exactly the same happened during alcohol prohibition during the early 20th century. Rather than banning flavored e-liquids, ensuring that products are safe and that only adults are able to access them would make much more sense.
If the goal of an e-liquid ban is to make people safer, the signs point to it having the opposite effect.
Vaping is safer than smoking
We now have strong research that long-term vaping is safer than long-term smoking. Public Health England have released studies highlighting this. The United Kingdom’s healthcare system even endorses e-cigarettes as a way of quitting smoking. The US should consider such pioneering research before making any hasty moves on vaping.
While some advocate “cold turkey” as a way of quitting smoking, the reality is that many benefit more from a “harm reduction” approach. Reducing the risk to health by getting smokers to start vaping is better than trying and failing to get them to just stop smoking. By stopping the sale of flavored e-liquids, many smokers-turned-vapers could end up regressing back to combustible cigarettes.
Furthermore, for regular e-liquid vapers who want to stop taking nicotine completely, CBD is a superb alternative. A small trial showed that CBD consumption helps to reduce nicotine cravings and cigarette intake. Many users enjoy the act of vaping, just as they previously did smoking. With CBD e-liquids, people can keep vaping, while minimizing the health risks.
How to stay safe with vaping
That said, there are some important precautions to take, whether you use nicotine, cannabis or CBD vape juices. As these industries are unregulated, it’s much easier for companies to put poor quality products on the market. In many cases, this isn’t harmful to anything other than your wallet. But some brands are prepared to put unproven and even dangerous ingredients into their e-liquids, and pass them off as legit. Cheap, untested vape juices could be responsible for the illnesses and deaths are occurring right now. It’s hard to know without extensive research, but nobody doubts these products are out there.
Thankfully, staying safe with vaping has been made easier by well-meaning e-liquid brands. They want to create a thriving industry, made up of safe and effective products. Trusted companies have no issues in sending their products to accredited laboratories for testing and analysis. Prospective customers are able to access the results. Brands willing to go through the third-party lab testing process are much, much more likely to be manufacturing safe e-liquids.
The plans for a flavored e-liquid ban are certainly concerning for the industry. The worst that could happen is for an ill-thought plan to be rushed through as a knee-jerk reaction to recent developments. It’s essential that any move from the Trump administration and FDA to make vaping safer is done via an evidence-based approach.
Vaping has made a positive difference for millions of Americans. A strong response from vape advocates is very likely. Hopefully a resolution will be found that protects both health and personal freedoms.
If you would like to vote to stop Donald Trump from signing the federal flavor ban of e-cig products please click here.