The usually progressive city of San Francisco is taking a step backward on the subject of health with its latest decision on vaping. The city supervisors voted to ban flavors of e-cigarette liquid in an effort to curb youth vaping. If the city board also passes the legislation, it will go into effect in 2018. While young people would be unable to purchase flavors and be stuck with tobacco flavor only for e-cigarettes, so would adults. Harm reduction advocates worry that this could make e-cigarettes less likely to appeal to smokers and prevent them from improving their health by switching.
Tobacco cigarettes are included in the ban, which could help to make smoking less appealing. The problem is that e-cigarettes are being tacked onto the ban along with all other tobacco products. E-cigarettes riding along with tobacco products is a trend that has created a serious issue and threatens smokers’ health. E-cigarettes are not tobacco products and are much safer than smoking, but a refusal on the part of many lawmakers to accept this fact has caused many smokers to be discouraged from making a choice that could save their lives.
The defense of anti-vaping legislation, that vaping could harm children or teens, is valid but the danger of young people vaping is overblown, and the danger of them getting hooked on vaping is disproven by facts. The Centers for Disease Control reports that youth vaping is on the decline along with smoking in the same age group, and studies have shown that nicotine addiction is more likely when nicotine is delivered by tobacco cigarettes than when it is delivered by e-cigarettes. Many vapers use e-cigarettes without nicotine as well, but this fact is usually completely ignored by anti-vaping advocates. Instead, vaping continues to be viewed as being as harmful as smoking. When this message is sent to the public, it could discourage smokers who are risking their lives daily with their habit from switching to a proven
The CEO of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, Ray Story, says that the San Francisco vaping flavor ban is “irresponsible.” While Story says he is against flavor names like bubble gum that might encourage children to vape, he believes that flavor choices are important for smokers because it can make vaping all the more appealing as compared to smoking. He also commented on the irony of California allowing marijuana to be sold in brownies while banning flavored e-cigarettes.
Menthol is one flavor of tobacco product that is sometimes allowed in places where other flavors are banned, but San Francisco’s ban includes menthol. Anti-youth smoking advocates say that menthol can make it easier for kids to tolerate smoking and get hooked. Always believing in an abstinence-only method of ending smoking, anti-youth smoking groups are some of the most vocal opponents of vaping. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids ruthlessly campaigns against e-cigarettes and vaping, giving no consideration to the fact that adult vaping saves lives and could in turn save children by reducing the number of adult smokers in the world for them to emulate.
E-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco (by definition) by high school students. While it would be best for young people to use no tobacco or nicotine at all because nicotine has been shown to harm developing brains, e-cigarettes are likely to be the least harmful of all nicotine products, and they are proven less harmful than smoking. But instead of being encouraged by the fact that kids who are prone to smoke are choosing the safer alternative, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sounded an alarm and went on a campaign to squash vaping by reporting inaccurate scientific study results.
The truth is that most kids who vape don’t end up switching to smoking, nor do they stick with e-cigarettes to the point of addiction. People who vape have reported being able to comfortably go without vaping for periods of time, such as when they are in public places where vaping is banned, and by comparison to smokers feel less cravings and less in need of a nicotine “fix.”
While cities like San Francisco move backwards on smokers’ health, science continues to show that vaping is safer than smoking and not as addictive. Some lawmakers understand and are taking action to separate e-cigarettes from tobacco products by legal definition. That would put vaping into its own unique category, where it could finally be recognized for what it is: A lifesaving alternative with the potential to end smoking once and for all.