Editor’s note: This Future View is about the rise of vaping and e-cigarettes. Next week we’ll turn to California’s attempt to let NCAA athletes profit from endorsements. We’ll ask, “Should college athletes be paid? If so, how?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Sept. 24. The best responses will be published that night.
Don’t Buy the Hype
It’s past time to smoke out the hysteria surrounding e-cigarettes. The numbers don’t lie. While seven unfortunate deaths related to e-cigarettes have recently made the headlines, about 150,000 Americans died last year of lung cancer—with tobacco as the major culprit.
To vape is to choose the much lesser of two evils. One randomized trial from the U.K. found that vaping was twice as effective as nicotine patches and gum at getting smokers to quit their habit successfully. Even if vaping is somewhat detrimental to lung health—mostly due to modified or illegal cartridges—we allow people to harm their bodies in all kinds of ways. That’s part of the American vision of freedom.
Cigarette smoking is dangerous not only to smokers but also to everyone around them. The heat generated at the end of the cigarette releases small, unstable pollutants into the air which have been implicated in some 40,000 annual U.S. deaths. E-cigarettes, which don’t reach nearly the same temperatures, spare the rest of us from inhaling these pollutants.
The antivaping hysteria is so much smoke. But where’s the fire?
Jefferson University, medicine
You’re Gambling With Kids’ Lives
Large numbers of young people who wouldn’t touch conventional cigarettes are developing nicotine addictions from e-cigarettes. Vaping companies have lured teens with appealing flavors, the components of which have been linked to pulmonary toxicity and respiratory failure in some cases. And while e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a noncombustible fashion, users may inhale metallic fumes from the coil and wick used to heat the e-liquid in the lithium-charged devices.
This means that e-cigarettes are not definitively safe. Though companies tout their products as a better alternative to cigarettes, that’s not exactly a high bar and the scientific evidence is inconclusive. Troublingly, the data on long-term health consequences to teen users remain to be seen.
After the recent news that six vapers died from a mysterious respiratory disease, we need to take action. Without conclusive scientific evidence, e-cigarette companies should not be allowed to market their products as a safer alternative to smoking. In addressing adolescent usage, the Trump administration is right to initiate a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
The data on e-cigarettes is sorely limited. As with cigarette research in the 20th century, it will take decades to determine the lifelong harm of e-cigarette use. There is no need to gamble with young people’s long-term health in the meantime.
University of Illinois in Chicago, medicine
Apply the Law, Stave off the Nanny State
Though the exponential growth in the popularity of electronic cigarettes is alarming, their relatively low risk should be reassuring. Public Health England found that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. While reading media reports of the risks of vaping, it’s important to remember where the real danger lies: Cigarette smoking was responsible for around 480,000 deaths in the U.S. last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaping has been connected with only seven deaths and 500 hospitalizations in America over the past year. One common thread between many of them has been the presence of vitamin E acetate, which is used in some black-market THC cartridges. These substances are not used by JUUL in its popular cartridges or by other leading mainstream brands.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a compound in marijuana known for its psychoactive effects) is already illegal in many states and on the federal level, and minors are not allowed to have THC in any state. Authorities should prosecute those who give drugs to minors. Suppliers of products that lead to deaths or injuries should be sued by victims. But there is no reason to crack down on safe, mainstream vaping companies. America isn’t meant to be a nanny state. By banning flavored e-cigarettes, the Trump administration will only help expand the black market that is largely responsible for the illnesses, putting more people at risk, and harm businesses that offer smokers a safer alternative.
University of North Carolina-Charlotte, economics
By banning flavored e-cigarettes, the Trump administration will only help expand the black-market that is largely responsible for the illnesses, putting more people at risk, and harm businesses that offer smokers a safer alternative.
Too Soon to Say
Vaping has become a casual addiction for many teenagers and young adults. Users often don’t leave the house without their device in hand. They seem to feel safe because clear-cut dangers have not yet been extrapolated from the available research, but this shouldn’t be read as a green light to justify unlimited use. Human lungs aren’t naturally disposed to process the chemicals present in flavored vape juices—that’s the bottom line. These should be used in moderation, if at all.
How the law should respond is a separate question. As long as traditional cigarettes are legal it seems irrational to ban vaping. If one absolutely must smoke something, vaping is still the healthier way to go.
Loyola University Chicago, neuroscience
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