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Confused Approaches to Regulating Vaping

Redefining vape kit as tobacco products and wholesale bans in the USA fly in the face of research findings

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Montana is still trying to ignore the will of the people, Massena is adopting a ban but research says that restricting youth access to vape products will simply lead to increased use of cigarettes. The only clear thing in the United States is that the hostile approach to vaping and tobacco harm reduction continues.

In 2015, Montana recognised that vape products were different from tobacco products with Bill 66. Last year, Ballot Initiative 185 gave voters the chance to change this and include vape kit under the banner of tobacco products. The public spoke and the initiative failed.

Now, barely days into 2019, Senate Bill 96 has been presented to go through the entire process all over again. Legislators are aiming to alter the definition of tobacco once again – which will impact who can buy and use them, and what level of tax will be applied.

Over in Massena, the Board of Education voted to pass a motion banning the possession and use of vape products from schools. While few would disagree with such a move, the arguments supporting the move remain unsettling.

School Superintendent Pat Brady told the assembled gathering: “This has become a major issue in schools across the country. One of the worrying parts about this is many of our youth don't see this as harmful. It has potential to bring students back to smoking cigarettes because of the nicotine you find in vaping.”

Trustee Kevin Peretta advocated that a “scare them early” approach was needed: “When I was growing up, that's what they did. They scared you when you were in fourth grade. I think there needs to be more of those campaigns. When you watch the media on the national level, you don't see a lot of that there.”

Keeping vaping away from schoolchildren is common sense, but many will wonder why there’s a need to lie and rely on self-proclaimed experts who understand none of the science?

While classifying vaping as a tobacco product is purely geared to replacing tax revenue lost from declining cigarette sales, creating a wall of disinformation is a lot more insidious and places the lives of smokers at risk. But, according to research, ‘smokers’ are exactly what teen vapers will become if the route to reduced harm is blocked from them.

In a paper published in this week’s Health Economics journal, Dhaval, Feng and Pesko looked at “The effects of e-cigarette minimum legal sale age laws on youth substance use”.

The team write: “Tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol are among the most widely used substances by adolescents. Youth smoking rates are declining, but each day, more than 3,200 youth initiate cigarette smoking and more than 2,000 transition into daily smoking (US Department of Health Human Services, 2014).”

“E-cigarettes debuted in the U.S. market in 2007 and have been advertised and positioned as alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Since its introduction, e-cigarettes have surged in popularity among youth. Within a 4-year period (20112015), its use has increased from 1.5% to 16.0% among high school students and from 0.6% to 5.3% among middle school students, surpassing cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among the underage population (Singh, 2016).”

While this sounds a bad start, the team note that although clamping down on vaping might reduce the numbers of teens doing it, they “find strong evidence that e-cigarette laws increased the probability of youth smoking conventional cigarettes”, and, “in particular, youth who have not smoked in the past”.

“Preventing youth from legally buying e-cigarettes until age 21 may harden preferences for cigarettes and make quitting at younger ages more difficult.”

The team can’t provide a solution to the problem of teen vaping, but it is clear that redefining terms, creating a world of lies, and outright bans simply aren’t going to cut it.



Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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