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January 6 2020

FDA’s Vape Ban Is What Happens When People Legislate What They Don’t Understand

National Review Online
featuring Julie Gunlock

This article is written by Katherine Timpf, reporter for National Review Online.  
 
On Thursday, the Trump administration announced that it would ban the sale of pre-filled flavored e-cigarette cartridges nationwide — which is both a terrible idea and a perfect example of what happens when government officials insist on legislating what they don’t understand.

Yes: I myself vape, and that’s part of the reason why this news upsets me. What’s more, as a vaper who has tried “open tank” systems — which the administration exempts from the ban — I find absolutely no solace in this fact, as I know from experience how fiddling with these sorts of systems often inevitably results in your hands and furniture and purses and life getting completely soaked with nicotine liquid.

My personal use, however, is far from the only reason that I am upset about this ban. In fact, the main reason I’m opposed to it is that it may, quite frankly, kill people.

See, President Trump insists that the purpose behind the ban is to “protect our families,” but the truth is, anyone who is informed on the facts of the issue would understand how it will only have a negative impact.

In case you yourself aren’t informed, here are some of those facts.

First of all, the narrative that we are in the midst of an epidemic of young kids getting addicted to vaping is patently false. Although many of them may have tried it, Julie Gunlock’s analysis of CDC data finds that only approximately 5.7 percent of teenagers — including 18- and 19-year-old adults — are actually addicted.

Another misconception is that vaping nicotine is deadly, and perhaps even worse than smoking. This also couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, experts agree that it is, at least for adults, much safer than smoking traditional combustible cigarettes. A Public Health England study, for example, estimated that it was 95 percent safer.

Many people, of course, argue this point by referring to the illnesses and deaths that were attributed to “vaping” throughout the United States in 2019. This, too, represents a simple misunderstanding of the facts. According to the CDC, the vast majority of the illnesses and deaths were due to THC vaping products — particularly those that had been obtained on the black market — containing Vitamin E acetate. In fact, when I spoke with Carrie Wade (the director of harm-reduction policy at the R Street Institute, who also has an educational background in neuroscience and pharmacology), she told me that “it would surprise” her if “any” of the illnesses or deaths were due to nicotine. She said that she believed that people who admitted only to vaping nicotine might simply be “hesitant to admit” that they had been using a marijuana product as well, especially if they were teens — because, due to the difference in the chemical properties of nicotine from those of THC, she “doesn’t see a need for the problematic type of chemical to be in a nicotine product” at all.

The concerns that vaping might be some sort of gateway to smoking combustible cigarettes, even if vaping products are still available, are equally unfounded. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, although there has been a rise in “youth e-cigarette use,” the exact same data also shows that the rate of teenagers smoking traditional combustible cigarettes has continued to fall — which wouldn’t be the case if the vaping-leads-to-smoking theory held any water. In fact, in a Wall Street Journal piece about how Britain’s vaping policy is much smarter than that of the United States, Matt Ridley notes that “less than 1% of vapers are people who have never smoked, and there is little sign of young people taking it up faster than they would have taken up smoking.”

 


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