Vapor Authority Cautions Overreactions to Vaping Illness in America
The Problem with Modern Day Prohibition against Vaping
Left unchecked, the misguided push to decimate the vaping industry could have very real consequences, such as the millions of legal adult users that depend on provenanced, high-quality vaping devices and e-liquids to kick their combustible smoking habit.
As it stands, one of the best ways to mitigate a smoking and nicotine addiction is to use flavored e-liquids. Natively, tobacco-based products are very much an acquired taste. Bitter in the most earthy and elemental way, the one substance that keeps smokers on their cigarettes is nicotine.
With a palate-pleasing concoction, however, it’s much easier and effective for former smokers to gradually reduce their nicotine intake. Attempting this process with tobacco-flavored e-juices would truly defeat the purpose. Essentially, smokers who want to quit are given the worst of both worlds, but that’s exactly what some government officials have been threatening to do; force the American people to choose between equally undesirable options. In the meantime, such threatened protocols would destroy small businesses – the engine of the American economy – at a time when we can least afford it.
Once the CDC declared a lung illness epidemic, anti-tobacco and vaping organizations launched an extensive media campaign. Over the last several days, we couldn’t listen to the car radio on our way to work without hearing some impassioned plea to stop vaping.
One undeniable reality concerning anti-vice initiatives is their abject failure in preventing the target behavior. Not only that, such measures have proven to be more trouble than they’re worth, creating untold consequences across wider demographics. The sad story of Prohibition offers us all the evidence we need.
Untold Consequences of the Alcohol Ban
Whether we’re talking about the current proposed vaping ban or the Prohibition era, these government-mandated impositions have a recurring theme; they all initially meant well. Regarding federal oversight and the impinging of constitutional rights and liberties, no one entity is smart enough to forecast the myriad variables involved. Often, it is much better to wait, research actual cause-and-effect dynamics, and then respond with effective proposals.
Unfortunately, our government has a history of responding before all the facts have come in. Typically, this stems from onerous pressure applied by institutions and movements with firm political agendas. That was the case with Prohibition and it’s surely the case now with the campaign against vaping.
Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of Prohibition was that government intended to stop one problem: uncouth or uncivilized behavior. As is now sadly typical of modern government blunders, the alcohol ban did not stop drinking. Moreover, it created several problems which would not have sprouted so easily had the government not pushed its hand.
Primarily, the issue preventing the practical implementation of the alcohol ban was government ineffectiveness at both the local and federal level. Initially, the Internal Revenue Service had the task to enforce the ban. Later, this responsibility transferred to the Justice Department. Not surprisingly, this non-cohesive message is repeated today with the proposed vaping ban, which features a disjointed narrative among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the White House.
What was worse in the Prohibition era, of course, was that the government had no precedent to glean information from. Pushing through the alcohol ban ultimately did nothing to prevent alcohol consumption. Those who wanted to imbibe found increasingly creative – and we would argue dangerous – avenues to do so.
The culture of speakeasies, bootlegging, or moonshine (also known as “bathtub gin”) sprouted from the Prohibition era. Tragically, the federal measure was an abject failure: it did not achieve its target objective and it created untold crises; the moralistic but misguided federal protocols destroyed many lives.
Parallels with the Proposed Vaping Ban
While health risks are always a legitimate concern, the public must keep a few things in mind regarding vaping:
- No legitimate vaping organization has ever stated that vaping is healthy, as that would violate FDA regulations. Instead, industry proponents argue that vaping is healthier than combustible smoking. The key here is harm reduction.
- Administration statements demanding that safe “alternatives” to vaping be developed and counterfeit vaping products be banned mirror the confused messaging coming from the CDC and the FDA. The former recommends ceasing all vaping activity, while the latter targets vaping (presumably illegally sourced) marijuana.
- Children and underaged teens acquiring vaporizers is an illegal activity.
Unfortunately, not all people and entities share the same concerns about economic and political impact. Prior to the White House declaring its intentions for a flavored e-liquid ban, the state of Michigan declared a full stop on such products. And on Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency regulation to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
Before all of this, San Francisco banned e-cigarettes outright earlier this summer. We urge political leaders to avoid knee-jerk reactions to a fluid situation. Not everyone thinks vaping is wrong, or “bad” for you. Politicians would be wise to avoid hysteria and think in rational terms.
Future Parallels That Must Be Avoided
The truth to remember is that the situation is evolving as we speak. More critically, though, if local and federal government agencies fail to decelerate their anti-constitutional actions, we will almost likely see similar unintended and tragic consequences the nation witnessed in the afore-mentioned Prohibition era.
These human costs may involve these three elements:
- A jump in black market vaping activities
- Forcing consumers into illicit and dangerous practices
- Do nothing at all to address underage vaping
Indeed, we need to make a clarification. The former two concerns are facts as they have already occurred.
In a stunning drug bust, law enforcement officers from Kenosha, Wisconsin disrupted an otherwise sleepy suburb in middle America. According to Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel of The New York Times:
“What they found inside was not crystal meth or cocaine or fentanyl but slim boxes of vaping cartridges labeled with flavors like strawberry and peaches and cream. An additional 98,000 cartridges lay empty. Fifty-seven Mason jars nearby contained a substance that resembled dark honey: THC-laced liquid used for vaping, a practice that is now at the heart of a major public health scare sweeping the country.”
Looking deeper into the details, it may be possible that two brothers who are barely into their twenties may have orchestrated one of the biggest black markets for illicit vaping products. Although federal authorities remain quiet about this case, it is surely the biggest catalyst for the rash of acute lung illnesses.
This case of the “Walter White” of vaping further confirms our suspicions. As one of the hundreds of vapers who was hospitalized due to lung injury, a 17-year old witness who wished to remain anonymous told the Times that he would meet with vaping dealers“ at Starbucks, a cross street, in front of an apartment, wherever they tell you.”
Later, he added, “It never comes up where they source it. You don’t ask.”
Thus, not only has vaping gone underground, it has also harmed several people. If state and federal governments ban vaping, this black market would become even more lucrative. That’s because this Walter White case centered on THC-based e-liquids, which is an illegal substance under federal law. But if vaping is banned, that would create a second black market, driving even more illicit behaviors and resulting in more harm to society.
Additionally, without a viable vaping market, those who use vaping as a legitimate cessation device will be forced out of alternatives. Thus, their only practical recourse is to return to smoking. That’s one of the many reasons why Times contributor Spencer Bokat-Lindell noted that “Vaping saves lives.”
But the biggest tragedy of all? In all likelihood, the vaping ban won’t do anything to address the core issue of underage vaping. As we discussed above, regardless of the fact that it is illegal for underaged individuals to even purchase a vaporizer, kids who vape would access black market sources to satisfy their vaping addiction.
Second, a vaping ban does nothing to address the issue of already addicted teens. According to a recent NBC News report, more than a quarter of high school students admit to vaping. That is a staggering figure, representing a magnitude that no vaping ban could mitigate effectively.
Unfortunately, stopping flavored e-liquid sales would prevent affected underaged users from weaning off the addiction. Forcing individuals to go cold turkey on nicotine lacks compassion and understanding for the onerous struggles involved in combating addiction.
Put differently, the cat’s out of the bag: pretending otherwise is bad policy and in the end, hurts the very people Prohibition-like mandates were intended to protect.
Why the Vaping Ban Won’t Work
Throughout history, our government has attempted to curtail certain behaviors based on moral principles. While undoubtedly well-intentioned, these measures have historically had devastating results by facilitating black markets and illegal enterprises.
In conclusion, a vaping ban takes away choices, not only from adult former smokers who use vaporizers as a cessation device, but also from the myriad children who are tragically addicted to nicotine. Instead of reactionary measures, policy makers should instead consult legal and historic precedent and research actual, effective strategies.