In what feels like the beginning of a twenty-first-century relapse into the ill-famed days of Prohibition, more and more politicians across the country have flocked to one of the most misguided, counterproductive and reactionary measures in decades.
Amid escalating concerns over the alleged widespread use of e-cigarettes among children, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker passed an ongoing four-month ban on all vaping products in the Bay State, Michigan became the first state to completely ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and the New York City Council followed with a similar ban last week. Furthermore, with the backing of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), politicians in Washington, D.C. are gearing up to pass federal legislation banning flavored e-cigarettes nationwide.
“We are in desperate need of facts,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, just weeks ago. For once, I couldn’t agree more with the director; his administration clearly does not have enough information to address the subject properly.
The absurdity and near-sightedness of this runs deep, typical of nanny-state initiatives. As surprising as it might be for some, e-cigarettes (like all nicotine products) are already illegal for minors. That being the case, if the proponents of the ban are correct in that flavored e-cigarettes represent such a serious health risk to so many who shouldn’t have access to them, why should we believe that even more regulations will suddenly work?
On the contrary, more bans will only result in what some would refer to as unintended consequences, but which I would deem predictable and inevitable outcomes: limiting the liberties of those who have used these products legally; and creating a black market for a commodity that could have saved the lives of millions of Americans addicted to tobacco. Our neighbours to the north have not had the same problems with vaping as we have. 180Smoke is based in Canada and has been closely following legalization status in the USA. “The beauty of vaping is that it reduces pollution, is convenient and extremely discreet.” said the CEO of the establishment.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that e-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective as other FDA-approved products (such as gum, patches, lozenges, and nicotine inhalers) in helping people quit smoking. Likewise, more Americans are turning to e-cigarettes than all of these products combined.
Today, 38 million Americans are addicted to smoking, with upwards of 480,000 cigarette-related deaths each year (including over 40,000 deaths from secondhand smoke). Meanwhile, according to the CDC, just 47 Americans have died from vaping-related complications, with just over two-thousand unconfirmed reports of vaping-related respiratory illnesses in recent weeks. The common factor discovered in each of these cases is the use of black market THC products laced with other oils, which only exist as the result of yet another prohibition on cannabis. Even if each of these cases were proven to be a result of legal e-cigarettes, none of which contain oils, and purchased from reputable retailers, the number of deaths caused by vaping would still be insignificant next to those created by cigarettes.
And unlike traditional cigarettes, vaping does not burn tobacco, which critics note, when combusted, releases over 4,000 cancer-causing chemicals. E-cigarettes substitute tobacco for an e-liquid made up of glycerin and propylene glycol (both FDA-approved substances), resulting in a far safer alternative to tobacco smoke. The American Cancer Society even acknowledges that traditional cigarettes are more dangerous than vaping, with Public Health England (PHE) concluding that vaping is as much as 95 percent safer than cigarettes. The anti-vape zealots must realize they are driving people back to cigarettes.
But with so many self-serving politicians on every level of government today, it should be no surprise that such tired means of expanding government power (even those that feel as distant as Prohibition) continue to emerge in the public sphere. Maybe one day we will see our elected officials abandon these impulsive, anti-science policies.
Until then, let’s not hold our breath.
By Jason Osborne
Rep. Osborne represents Rockingham County District 4