A woman uses an e-cigarette. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Glen A. Wilson High School

Opinion: New ban on vaping is just a smokescreen for a bigger nicotine problem

After recent lung disease outbreaks, there has been a demand for legislative action against the vaping epidemic that is sweeping the nation. 

Deemed as a public health emergency, electronic nicotine delivery systems, more commonly known as e-cigarettes or vape pens, have recently faced the direct scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration and President Donald Trump himself. 

Following a rising tide of attractive vaping flavors such as peanut butter and jelly, and Strawberry Watermelon POP came the dark realization that major vaping corporations such as Juul have begun to target youth. In an on and off battle to decide how to combat the flavored cartridges in vapes, practically every form of government has pooled together to reduce the dangerous effects of vaping on minors. 

A total of six states have placed age or production restrictions on vaping, starting with the state of Michigan in early September according to the Public Health Law Center of Michigan. Most recently is Governor Baker, who on Sept. 24, set a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products, effective until May of 2020. 

At first glance, this fragmented collection of vaping bans may have the power to remake a multi-billion dollar vaping industry.

However, in the end, an outright ban on vaping is a sporadic, politically incentivized decision, that is just a smokescreen sprouted for legislators to be able to say that they have done something to lower the statistics of minority vaping and vaping related injuries.

More importantly, the vaping ban is set up to fail. Starting from its politically fueled, orange-haired, roots. 

After a marijuana-induced lung disease outbreak, the Trump administration took it upon themselves to tackle two problems at once: the teen vaping crisis and marijuana vapes.

Despite being separate issues, President Trump has made no inclination of the differences and has instead continued to push for a ban on nicotine vaping products, which are regulated by the FDA. 

In the meantime, President Trump actively tweeted “While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL! Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!”    

However, hold your excitement. It would not be the first time that President Trump jumped on a popular political bandwagon only to back out as soon as political concerns prompted him to dial back. 

Nonetheless, sketchy presidential support is not the only reason that the vaping ban is set to fail. 

Remember the “noble” ban on alcohol from 1920 to 1933? This act, called Prohibition, began to curve crime rates and alcohol consumption only to be met with a rebounded increase in government spending and more organized crime systems.

Ironically, although consumption did decrease for a short time, it actually grew steadily afterward, bridging in 1922, and marking the start to a time of illicit production and distribution despite efforts of enforcement. Similarly, a ban on vaping will send smokers back to the packs, stretch court and prison systems and remove a significant source of tax revenue.

See the pattern?

In other words, Prohibition was a miserable failure and if the vaping ban does not change its course, it will be too. Worse, this ban is blatantly hypocritical in nature. Why ban e-cigarettes — which are only a decade old, rather than cigarettes which have killed about eight million people a year, according to the World Health Organization?

The answer lies in economic reasoning.

In 2018, revenues from tobacco tax amounted to $12.86 billion dollars, and in 2019 the average cigarette tax was $1.81 per pack according to data collected by the organization, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. It seems the government is aiming to put a bandaid on a fairly new wound, rather than sorting out the tax-related issues and backlash that would come with banning traditional cigarettes. 

Unfortunately, if legislators pass this ban without considering the true issue behind vaping, they are doomed to repeat their past mistakes.

Firstly, the entire ban is mainly centered on the dangerously popular flavored cartridges that attracted teens to vaping. Flavors such as mint or mango-creme are particularly attractive to youth.

However, these flavored cartridges are a smokescreen for unhealthy amounts of nicotine and the various additives and condiments in a vape stick. Going down to the nitty-gritty details, vaping exposes the body too far more nicotine than normal cigarettes, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation. 

Therefore, instead of hastily creating a vaping ban, we should instead focus on understanding the underlying health concerns that come with vaping. Only then will legislators have the ethical leeway to say that they have worked to solve the vaping epidemic. 

Prohibition did not stop the consumption of alcohol, and illegality did not stop the drug trade. A ban on e-cigarettes will not effectively solve the vaping issue either. 

Anyone looking to quit vaping can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help.