Connecticut is one signature away from officially raising the vaping age to 21
Despite continued tobacco control efforts, smoking continues to kill more people every year than any other preventable cause. As such, it’s no wonder why vaping has always been looked at with such caution. Especially in the early days, it was only fair to question the real harm reduction value of vaping. However, we now have a growing backlog of peer-reviewed evidence which strongly supports not only the harm reduction but also smoking cessation value of vaporizers. Regardless, vaping regulations are continually shifting, and usually not for the better. In fact, yet another state has decided to equate vaping and smoking by raising the minimum age of purchase to 21.
Both sides of the vaping debate have had varied reactions to the news. Advocates plead caution when regulating something shown to help smokers quit in unprecedented numbers, but particularly with the misguided message it sends to just apply tobacco control laws to vaping. At the same time, anti-vapers are celebrating the news, as it means legislation like this is gaining traction across the country.
The only thing standing in the way of this bill becoming law is a signature from Governor Ned Lamont, who originally proposed the move as part of his first two-year plan. It had widespread support from both sides of the aisle; The House passed it 124-22, and the Senate voted by a margin of 33-3. The voting came as no surprise, as Connecticut has already been pursuing a controversial ban on e-liquid flavors. Gov. Lamont unsurprisingly used the specter of a youth vaping epidemic to justify the move, “When I sign this into law, we will have taken an important step in protecting the health of the youngest members of our communities.” So while many in the state legislature are excited about the “win,” some experts are skeptical of the broader impact of these types of moves.
One vocal opponent of the bill was Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, who said he believed this type of legislation is a “triumph of emotion over reason.” He even suggested legislators should take a deeper look at the supporting evidence, and not relying on the echo chamber of the state legislature. Further pointing out their hypocrisy, Sampson indicated Connecticut is one of only a handful of states in the entire country that doesn’t spend a penny they take in from tobacco taxes on smoking cessation programs. Regardless, when Gov. Lamont signs the bill, it will officially make Connecticut the 15th state to raise the vaping age to 21 alongside tobacco.
Should We Support Vaping?
Senator Sampson made an excellent point about this move when he said, “this bill suggests that the people in this building are smarter than the people outside.” If more state legislators had looked into the robust pile of evidence we have, they would likely have taken pause before passing such a shortsighted bill. We’ve known since at least 2015 that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking thanks to research by Public Health England. While that was one of the first reports on the massive harm reduction value of vaping, it certainly wasn’t the last. In fact, a few months back researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute concluded the toxicants in cigarette smoke are 93% higher than in e-liquid vapor. But if that doesn’t do it for you, consider the report from the Journal of Aerosol Sciences which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.
Looking past the overall harm reduction value, you still find a ton to love about e-cigarettes. For instance, we know that not only is vaping a useful smoking cessation tool, but it’s actually the single most effective, thanks to research out of the University of Louisville. Researchers tested all the most common smoking cessation tools and methods, ranging from cold turkey through prescription drugs, and found vaping was more likely to work than anything else. However, in this case, as with most cases, the primary concern of lawmakers isn’t the harm reduction or smoking cessation value of vaping, but rather their impact on teens. Luckily a report of over 60,000 students by Action on Smoking and Health concluded only between 0.1%, and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up a vaporizer more than a few times.
We simply must push back against laws like this whenever we can. In this particular case, it’s too late, but it should still serve as an example. It should concern vapers everywhere, not just in places where legislation like this is pending. The truth is that the more areas which adopt laws like this, the easier it will be to pass them elsewhere. If we don’t fight for our vaping rights now, it may not be very long before we wake up and not recognize the vaping industry at all. That’s why we must work to teach those around us the value of vaping. The more people who understand what’s at stake, the stronger our cause will be.
Do laws like this worry you? Do you think it’s a big deal for vaping and smoking to be equated? How can we best teach others about the value of e-cigarettes? 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.