Vaping continues to be legislated the same as smoking despite evidence proving its relative safety.
According to the campaign Tobacco-Free Kids, a total of 18 states, the District of Columbia, as well as over 480 municipalities across the United States have raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. The primary reason cited for this growing legislative shift is to reduce teen smoking rates by helping to restrict their access to tobacco products.
Vermont now joins neighboring New England states Maine and Massachusetts, with new vaping regulations taking effect in the state over the Labor Day weekend. These new regulations raise the minimum age for the sale of tobacco, as well as vapor products, from the more traditional age of 18 up to 21.
Public health officials and experts praise the legislative movement and cite it as a primary driving force behind the dramatic decline in teen smoking rates over the last several years. They note states and municipalities with these regulations in place have far lower youth smoking rates than those without. While the vaping community largely support restricting access of nicotine-containing products to minors, many claim the constant Association with and regulation alongside tobacco products may be creating a negative public stigma.
The progress made in reducing teen smoking rates over the last several decades must be commended, which have dropped nearly 75% between 1995 to 2015. While it is important to restrict the sale and access of tobacco to minors, the constant demonization of vaping only serves to create a negative image of vaping in the eyes of adult smokers in need of an alternative.
Growing Legislative Trend
The Tobacco-Free Kids campaign claims nearly all smokers begin as teens or young adults, and the ages between 18 to 21 are an especially key time in development. This is when many smokers go from experimental, occasional smoking, to regular, daily smoking.
“Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help to prevent young people from ever starting to smoke and to reduce deaths, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use.” claims the organization. Public health experts often cite these “Tobacco-21” laws as a significant driving force behind the massive drop in teen smoking rates over the past several decades.
While public health officials have praised the move, some Vermont retailers are concerned about a potential loss in revenue from the new restrictions. Erin Sigrist, president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, believes these new restrictions will ultimately lead to fewer options and access for established vapers, as well as newcomers.
While the efforts to reduce teen smoking through legislation and regulation are commendable, these efforts more often than not group vapor products and devices alongside tobacco. We have near-constant evidence highlighting the safety of the former over the latter. Regardless, this consistent grouping may lead to negative associations and stigmas regarding vaping. Adult smokers who are looking to quit may never consider vaping as a viable option for smoking cessation as a result.
Safety Of Vaping
There is emerging evidence highlighting the concerns of grouping vaping together with smoking, which may in turn prevent adult smokers from considering a proven alternative to tobacco to aid in cessation. The campaign Action on Smoking and Health found that a disappointing 13% of adult participants believe vaping is safer than smoking, with a remarkably high 26% of participants believing it’s just as bad, if not worse.
There are many studies showing that vaping may be the single most effective smoking cessation aid available to adult smokers. Researchers from the University of Louisville found that vaping was the single most effective smoking cessation tool available today, beating even prescription alternatives such as Chantix.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia found vaping makes even the most hardened of smokers quit, even when they didn’t want to. They noted a minority of users that had successfully converted to vaping as a smoker despite having no desire or prior attempts to quit, noting the phenomena of “accidental quitters,”
“These were our accidental quitters,” said Dr. Caitlin Notley of UEA Medical School. “They hadn’t intended to quit smoking and had tried vaping on a whim, or because they had been offered it by friends. They went on to like it, and only then saw it as a potential substitute for smoking.”
Efforts to reduce the teen smoking rate by raising the minimum age a person can legally purchase tobacco products has been remarkably successful over the last several decades. Research has shown that regions who raised the minimum age from 18 to 21 had far lower teen smoking rates than those who didn’t.
Nicotine-based vaping has been shown to be a vital tool in helping to end the global smoking epidemic. While restricting minors access to vapor products is important, vaping has been repeatedly proven to be less harmful than smoking and thus should be regulated independently of tobacco.
By regulating vaping products exactly the same as tobacco products, legislators may be creating a stigma against vaping due to the constant negative association with tobacco. This could potentially prevent adult smokers from considering vaping, despite it being a proven reduced-harm alternative.
Have you personally used vaping to help you quit smoking? Do you believe that regulating vaping the same as smoking may potentially be harmful? How do you feel about efforts made by anti-smoking campaigns? Let us know what you think in the comments below. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest vaping news!
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