Last December I wrote a column in which I attempted to evaluate the evidence against JUUL and other e-cigarette companies used by the Food and Drug Administration to implement more stringent regulations on these devices. My argument was simple — vaporizers are fundamentally different than traditional cigarettes and the evidence that vaping is hurting people in the same way cigarettes historically have is negligible.
Since then the vaping “epidemic” has grown some legitimate thorns — more than 400 people have reported some form of vaping-related respiratory illnesses, with six confirmed dead. Many politicians have jumped on the tragedy as a means to push for e-liquid and vaping bans across the board. On Sept. 11, President Donald Trump even announced his administration is currently working to draft a federal ban on all flavored e-liquids. Furthermore, the New York Public Health and Health Planning Council quickly approved an emergency order banning all flavored e-liquids after reports of the vaping-related deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been inconclusive about the exact cause and nature of the illnesses, but from the available evidence it’s clear the hysteria over e-cigarettes is almost entirely unfounded and reflects a misalignment of priorities by countless government officials who seem as though they are looking for any excuse to antagonize the industry. This development is unfortunate because for many, vaping presents a suitable alternative to real cigarettes and wide-reaching laws of this nature will only lead more people to pick up the cancer-causing alternative.
The median age of individuals with the disease associated with vaping is 19-years-old, meaning that in many cases, the afflicted have only been vaping for a brief period of time. The more than 400 reported cases of lung illnesses have come about only in the past month. It seems extremely unlikely that the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are ‘finally’ being felt by individuals who have likely just picked up the habit. E-cigarettes have been around since the 1960s — the notion that only now are the repercussions of vaping appearing is a misconstruction of the dilemma by both media and elected officials. Clearly something other than e-cigarettes are causing the illness.
An independent sample study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 84 percent of those afflicted with the lung disease reported vaping THC — the active ingredient in Cannabis — in the days and weeks prior to experiencing any symptoms. A smaller subset reported vaping THC and nicotine, and an even smaller subset reported vaping nicotine alone, which, given the taboo nature of marijuana in the U.S., health officials speculate some patients may have chosen not to disclose they used.
For an illness often reported by the media and health officials as having no clear cause other than just “vaping,” it’s been remarkably easy to narrow down a prime culprit — blackmarket marijuana cartridges containing Vitamin E acetate. It’s been found in every single state in which the illness has been reported and nearly every marijuana vape used by those afflicted with the disease. Many individuals manufacture their own THC cartridges often through completely unregulated methods, and then brandish it with fake packaging and labels like “Dank Vapes.”
Moreover, it’s not hard to imagine the kinds of problems that could manifest following sweeping bans of e-liquid and/or vaping devices. A ban could perpetuate black market and homemade e-liquids and vaporizers with no federal safety standards or regulations, perfectly akin to the THC cartridges that have already claimed too many lives.
It also comes as a surprise that the same Trump administration willing to aggressively roll back fracking and climate change initiatives, antitrust laws and wildlife protection acts, all for the sake of being “pro-business,” is so eager to shut down what is estimated to be a $19.3 billion dollar industry. And, to be clear, shutting down is exactly what will happen to tens of thousands of small businesses all over the country whose inability to sell flavored e-liquids will surely lead to financial turmoil.
The most tragic aspect of the looming vape ban and accompanying hysteria is for those whom the devices were made in the first place — cigarette smokers. 480,000 people die every year from cigarettes, roughly 1,300 people everyday. There have already been reports of former smokers going back to their cigarette of choice out of fear of developing the completely misrepresented lung disease. Any rhetoric that pushes people towards cigarettes and the health problems that have long been associated with the habit is inherently irresponsible.
Many media outlets and politicians have carelessly manipulated public perception of the crisis in order to fuel momentum for laws that appear to be almost entirely misplaced. Rashly forcing broad-spectrum e-cigarette bans with no regard to precedent, justification or impact will end up hurting more Americans than it helps, especially considering the grossly misinformed nature of it’s intention.
Shrey Dua is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.