Opinion | Leave the vapes alone

By Josh Beylinson, Staff Columnist

Vaping has garnered a lot of negative attention lately, which has led to bans on the sale of some vape products.

Recently, the state of Michigan decided to follow in the footsteps of San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado, by banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, professing concern for the health of the state’s youth. This happened soon after numerous e-cig users across the United States were hospitalized with lung disease.

Many people quickly jumped on the bandwagon against e-cigs without waiting for the full facts to come out on the suspected lung disease link. But banning flavored vapes won’t make them go away. It only punishes adults by eliminating a safer alternative to cigarettes while doing nothing to improve the health of America’s minors.

We know now that vapes in general likely aren’t the main culprit behind this increase in lung disease. Simply vaping for a few weeks won’t put you in the hospital. Concerning the recent outbreak, U.S. public health experts found that the vapes that people smoked were either bootlegs or contained bootleg cartridges. This means the vapes were not obtained in a licensed dispensary, or contained marijuana oil derived from Vitamin E, which is dangerous if inhaled.

The argument on banning vapes or flavors rests on the idea that by banning them, a state or city can claim that they care about the health of their teens. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan echoed this sentiment in a statement shortly after the flavored vape ban was announced.

“As governor, my number one priority is keeping our kids safe and protecting the health of the people of Michigan,” said Whitmer.

This viewpoint is complete hypocrisy. Vaping contains no tobacco and produces fewer carcinogens than cigarettes. Despite this, it has received plenty of criticism recently while cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol seem to be hardly addressed in this new wave of hysteria over teen drug use. Federal laws state that vapes and vaping products, like the latter three substances, cannot be purchased by minors, while adults can buy them (though marijuana depends on the city or state). But somehow, states such as Michigan seem to think adults also can’t handle vaping.

If the Michigan government truly cared about kids, it would instead regulate sales of flavored vapes better to ensure they stay in the hands of the adults who are legally allowed to have them. Banning flavored vapes altogether will likely lead to more people of any age buying bootleg materials, which appear to have caused the recent outbreak of lung disease across the United States.

The ban may also affect adults who use vaping to quit smoking cigarettes, arguably a more dangerous product than vapes. Data shows that 82% of former smokers who had successfully quit smoking prefered using fruit-flavored vapes. E-cigs have been proven to be twice as effective at getting adults to stop smoking than all other nicotine replacement products, such as the nicotine patch. By banning vapes or by banning flavors, this hurts these adults and will lead them to start smoking cigarettes again, since there are many that rely on flavors to keep off cigarettes.

The ban also makes room for cigarettes to gain a competitive advantage over their arguably safer and cheaper alternative. This has proven to be true in San Francisco, which recently adopted a vape ban. Since they enacted the ban, tax revenue from tobacco products has hardly changed, since the increase in traditional cigarette purchases has covered the loss from the vaping ban.

Like cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol are also considerably more dangerous than vapes as they severely impair the user’s judgement, while vapes do no such thing. Alcohol is legal for adults over 21, while marijuana legalization has been trending for the past few years. Like these substances, we should be allowing vaping to be legal for adults, educating the public on its negative effects and making sure people understand how to use these substances responsibly, not ban them.

Ultimately, it is the government’s job to inform the citizenry, children included, about the negative effects of vaping, smoking and drinking and then keep it in the hands of people who are legally allowed to do these things. The government should be less involved in the business of deciding the quantity and flavor of nicotine or alcohol that adults are allowed to consume.

Banning flavored vapes is fruitless and an ineffective way of preventing kids from vaping while hurting adults in the meantime.