Is the vaping industry at fault for teenage vaping or are public officials not doing their part
Despite a steady decline in recent years, reports about the dangers of school age vaping have started a flurry of news stories and articles about the teen vaping “epidemic.” Many of these stories center around the fact that schools find vaping more challenging to monitor than smoking. Many have called for the prohibition of vaping altogether, claiming that it is targeting youth and banking on the misconception that vaping is just as, if not more dangerous than smoking. This outcry and public attention are what, in large part, lead the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to announce it’s investigation into vaping and other flavored tobacco products. This frenzy has deep roots in how the government has viewed vaping, which is slightly biased at best.
Issues In Schools
According to many of the school officials addressed in news reports, the sleek and often minimalist designs of some vaporizers make them hard to distinguish from items like pens and USB storage devices. The scent of many e-liquids are not unpleasant, nor are they as persistent as the smell of cigarette smoke. This makes it hard for officials to monitor the students who do sneak vapes into school. While this is a real issue, and no one is advocating for underage teens and children to pick up vaping, it is extreme to call for the outright ban of the products altogether, especially when the most recent studies find that use of vaping by high school age students has been on a steady decline. From 2015 to 2016 usage among high schoolers went down 5%.
Measures, of course, are still being taken. Not just with the FDA investigation into these products and any potential threat they pose to public health; but also by the companies that sell them. Many have voluntarily raised the age to buy their products to 21, and some have even put millions of dollars into lobbying state and federal governments into legally changing the age for all vaping products. Juul Labs just announced that they’d be donating $30 million to start an expert panel whose job is to work on ways to limit teenage vaping.
Many of the views people in the U.S. have about vaping stem from the government and their treatment of the issue. While England’s National Health Agency has produced studies showing the benefits of vaping over smoking, the U.S. government has been stifling these facts in favor of “caution.” Meanwhile, cigarettes continue to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease around the world and at home. Vape and e-cigarette producers are forbidden to advertise the benefits of vaping over smoking, and previously vaping was on track to be made effectively illegal by 2018. Now the FDA has postponed their deeming rules until 2022, but the harsh regulations still loom.
It’s been shown by several large-scale polls that the vast majority of the general public are unaware of the many benefits of vaping. In fact, one survey by Action on Smoking and Health found that only 13% of people think that vaping is just as, if not more dangerous than smoking. What’s worse is that over 25% said that they felt vaping was just as, if not more dangerous than tobacco. These sort of stats put things into perspective as to just how bad things are, and how far we still have to go.
This negative view by the government, as well as sweeping the benefits of vaping under the rug, is in large part why this call for banning the products has gained so many supporters. If controlling use in school is the issue, then school officials should be more educated on how to identify the products. If teens getting access to the products is the issue, then raising the age of purchase would assist with barring easy access. We already know from studies that the number of school-age youth partaking in vaping is rapidly decreasing.
An all-out ban and prohibition of these products for everyone should not be the answer. These products not only provide a safer alternative to smoking but they are one of the most effective cessation tools on the market. If the government were to run their own studies, such as countries like the UK have, they would surely find that these benefits exist and are overall beneficial to the overall public health. Changing how the government sees and treats these products will be the most beneficial of any actions taken.
How do we appropriately keep vaporizers out of the hands of minors? How can we help improve the public perception of vaping? How do you think we can we affect change in the government in regards to vaping rights? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.