The Dangers Of Vapor Bans
Public health officials are banding together to warn against the dangers of blanket bans on vapor products.
In mid-2019, a wave of outbreaks of mysterious lung illnesses and injuries began to appear throughout the United States. While no apparent source or cause of these outbreaks had been determined yet, the common thread between the vast majority of these cases was that patients had reported actively using or recently having used some form of vapor products.
As the outbreaks continued and patient numbers increased, states and municipalities throughout the US began implementing reactionary regulations ranging from flavor bans to complete prohibition. The problem with these initial regulations were that they explicitly targeted nicotine vapor products, yet further investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found vitamin E acetate to be the culprit in a vast majority of cases, which is commonly used as a thinning agent in illegally produced cannabis oil vapor cartridges.
Rather than targeting the illicit black market products that actually pose harm to public health, these prohibitionist policies end up restricting adult smoker’s access to a proven form of smoking cessation, which can lead to a litany of public health ramifications down the road. Public health experts have begun speaking out against these reactionary measures, and call for cautious, not alarmist, regulations on vapor products.
The worldwide smoking epidemic is responsible for the deaths of nearly half a million Americans annually, with the CDC estimating smoking costs the country over $300 billion a year in lost productivity and medical debt. Public health experts acknowledge that while vapor products aren’t perfect, it’s a question of proportionate risk. E-cigarettes pose far less risk than cigarettes, allowing smokers a means of transitioning to quitting all nicotine products entirely.
More Harm Than Good
In an opinion piece in the journal Science, a group of public health experts poses the idea that prohibitionist policies on vapor products may actually be detrimental to public health rather than protect it. The authors, including three deans of public health, caution against blanket bans attempting to address different concerns at the same time while also noting the potential negative ramifications against public health, such as restricting adult smoker’s access to a proven and effective smoking cessation device.
Amy Fairchild, dean of the Ohio State University College of Public Health and lead author of the study, directly addresses the issues with reactionary regulation that isn’t based on current facts and data. “Illnesses and deaths, which appear to be related to vaping illicit THC oils, have caused justifiable alarm as has the rise of young people who are vaping nicotine. But in our response we must not lump together these troubling developments and fail to consider the powerful evidence supporting the availability of legal nicotine products” she wrote.
She and her co-authors address the obvious problem with banning vaping while continuing to sell cigarettes. In the article, the team notes that “restricting access and appeal among less harmful vaping products out of an abundance of caution while leaving deadly combustible products on the market does not protect public health. It threatens to derail a trend that could hasten the demise of cigarettes, poised to take a billion lives this century.”
The group of public health experts calls for policy discussions surrounding vaping to be viewed through the context of all available data regarding potential risks and benefits. The team states, “there are important distinctions to be made between nicotine and THC products, between products manufactured by reputable companies and those sold on the black market, and between the potential risks and benefits to adolescents and adults.”
We live in the midst of a worldwide smoking epidemic that currently impacts over 1 billion people globally. In just the United States alone, the CDC estimates there are now about 38 million smokers, 16 million of which currently live with some form of smoking-related illness.
Banning vapor products restricts access to a proven and effective option for adult smokers looking to quit. In fact, a study from the University of Louisville found vaping to be the most effective smoking cessation device available, even more than prescriptions such as Chantix.
Not only is vaping the most effective smoking cessation device, but current research indicates vaping also poses significantly reduced harm compared to smoking. According to a groundbreaking study conducted by Public Health England, researchers found vaping to be 95% safer than smoking, a figure the country’s public health agency routinely stands behind.
In addition, there is currently zero evidence of long-term risk to users of vapor products. In fact, a report by the National Academy of Sciences found that not only is vaping less harmful than smoking, but there are no long-term health effects associated with prolonged use.
Public health experts and officials speaking out in favor of greater transparency is nothing new. As various departments of health throughout the country had identified, illicit cannabis cartridges are the culprit of these outbreaks. The key difference this time around is that these experts have solidified their views in the scientific literature as opposed to merely shouting them into the void, for lack of a better phase.
While we have yet to determine the impact of this piece, a group of public health experts publicly supporting vaping in one of the most prestigious and revered academic journals may actually have a direct effect on influencing policy. While these experts are iterating points long championed by vaping advocates and industry leaders, these views hold far more weight and significance in this instance.
Despite this sign of positive momentum for the vaping industry and community, it is not a time to become complacent with progress. Members of the industry and community must continue to lobby and advocate for common-sense legislation that helps prevent youth access to vaping while also allowing adult smokers access to an effective smoking cessation device and reduced-harm alternative to tobacco.
What are your thoughts on public health experts speaking out in favor of vaping? Do you believe legislators will heed their policy recommendations? We’d love to hear from you 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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