Current legislation on vaping ignores key cultural and social dilemmas

Mark Anbinder, Editor-in-Chief

Amid all the controversy behind vaping, its marketing, its “legitimacy” as a healthier alternative to cigarettes and its supposed “child-friendly” characteristics are many complicated legislative procedures that have been implemented in the last few months.

Mich., N.Y., Mass. and R.I. are among the states that have prohibited the sale of all or most vape flavors and products. Despite the fact that prohibition seems to be a valid solution to an otherwise inactive federal policy on vaping, it’s not difficult to see why these bans may have adverse effects on the public. 

Teen vaping and the subsequent illness it has caused is what prompted these four states to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes. The Trump administration also considered a nationwide ban on flavored vapes.  

“Politicians want to blame addiction on the flavors of vapes,” senior Desmond Dulaney said. “It seems like a lot of companies and politicians are throwing nicotine under the rug.”

Nicotine is, after all, the cause of addiction. While flavors like “fruit punch”, “cotton candy”, “mango” and even “cucumber” might make vaping more appealing for a younger demographic to try, the nicotine is what brings the countless youth affected by this cloud blowing catastrophe back to more and more pods of e-liquid. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four high school students have tried vaping. However, with multiple deaths as of Oct. 2019, many teens are growing increasingly weary.  

“I don’t know if kids will still try to get vapes after the ban,” freshman Jaden Norsworthy said. “To me it seems that the deaths are enough of a warning.”

It makes sense that lawmakers pay attention to flavors due to their questionable market, however, if the nicotine in the vapes is what’s causing addiction and continuous abuse, why are the flavors the center of attention? Few politicians have discussed dropping the allowed nicotine level in a vape, much like the European Union has. Additionally, most American politicians have only proposed flat out restricting the use and sale of e-cigarettes completely. 

As Americans, we tend to live in the moment. The all-or-nothing mentality has shot to the top of our mindset in almost every aspect of daily life. 

“You see it with alcohol. It’s a culture of excess and you see it with vaping,” OMNI Youth Services representative Hannah Fiedler said. “There’s an excessive side to [using] it, and these things are poisonous to our bodies.”

This comes into play in policy as very little is done to combat the culture that has developed around vaping itself. Vaping is seen as a fun and healthier alternative to consuming a drug that is associated with the likes of heart disease and lung cancer.

However, this hypothesis is far from the truth as strange new lung diseases have resulted in the confirmed deaths of at least 18 individuals and at least 805 cases of respiratory illnesses, directly correlating vaping with that which, according to countless marketing campaigns, it’s supposed to evade. 

“The main issue is that teens aren’t aware of what it can do to your body. Awareness on the effects of vaping and getting those facts out there in an effective manner should be the most important focus of the anti-vaping campaign,” Dulaney said. “Even though we’re teens, we still take into consideration the newly found risks. People my age have generally been affected by the new data.” 

Ultimately, we need to expand our perception of the dangers vaping can truly pose. If we are to simply ban e-cigarettes for the sake of eliminating opportunity, we are keeping an important perspective out of public domain. Just like with illegal narcotics, banning isn’t enough to keep users at bay. What prevents more people from abusing hard drugs is the education we’ve had implemented into our school systems and news sources. Similarly, we need to make an effort through awareness, advertising and policy that doesn’t involve extensive legislature, but involves a movement to change what our culture knows, or thinks it knows, about vaping. 

An outright ban on e-cigarettes, such as the ones already implemented, has and will confuse and outrage current users, who are unaware of the risks they are currently putting themselves through. It would be better to focus on research and education to inform the public of the dangers of vaping, and attempt to stigmatize it much like the FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign has done with other tobacco/nicotine products. 

“Nothing is foolproof but, much like with cigarettes, ultimately addressing these problems through policy, education and advertising to create a culture that doesn’t glamorize this, and to establish that vaping is not the norm, since the majority of students are not using [will help make vaping less popular],” Fiedler said.