Is Vapor as Bad as Smoke?

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Last week the California Department of Public Health released a report aimed squarely at e-cigarettes, also known as “vape pens”. In it, the State claims that vaporizing pens, while not as harmful as conventional cigarettes, still pose a significant threat to public health, and that “second hand vapor” in public spaces is cause for alarm. They point to the fact that e-cigarettes contain a variety of harmful chemicals, including Benzene, Formaldehyde, and Acetaldehyde, as well as nicotine, all of which have been linked with cancer. Yet if the report wasn’t enough, the Director of the Department of Public Health, Ron Chapman, is embarking on an extended public relations campaign to push for greater e-cigarette regulation.

At the heart of this campaign is the worry that e-cigarettes are a gateway into smoking for a younger audience. While smoking rates for conventional cigarettes in California are at historic lows, e-cigarette use has skyrocketed, especially among young adults. And it’s not hard to see why – given the wide variety of fruity flavors, such as watermelon, strawberry and even “super fly lemon”, the vape pens have obvious appeal to younger generations. But do they lead to greater conventional smoking?

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That’s the exact opposite of what many vaping ads claim they do, as they are often marketed as a way to reduce conventional smoking. Industry representative, Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association says, “there is ample evidence that vaping helps smokers quit and is far less hazardous than smoking.” The AVA’s website lists countless cases and testimonials detailing just that, and from the website alone it would seem that vapor pens’ sole use is for helping smokers kick their habit. But if prior debates over smoking are any indication, this could be a slight of hand in political rhetoric, as the top three online vapor pen retailers fail to mention vaping as substitute for conventional smoking anywhere in their marketing materials.

All of this has prompted new legislation. Introduced last week by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Senate Bill 140 would regulate vapor devices the same as other tobacco products, meaning that they would be banned indoors in all restaurants by default, as well as close proximity to schools, hospitals, and other public spaces. The move comes as other States have taken similar actions against public vaping, and after the Food and Drug Administration officially defined e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” on the national level.

And this is the crux of the issue, while e-cigarettes are undeniably “tobacco products”, in the sense that they are functionally similar to tobacco and contain many of the same chemicals, they are also just vapor. As someone stated in an online forum on the topic “I’m torn on being allowed to vape inside, I think any business owner should have the right to not allow vaping within their establishment, but the vapor from e-cigs is much less noxious than smoke from cigarettes.” And while the evidence against vapor being healthy is fairly straight forward given its chemical components, these same public health officials are telling us outright that vaping isn’t as bad as conventional smoking. So should we regulate it in the same way?

You decide. Cast your vote below on whether or not vaping in California should be regulated in the same way smoking is. Tell us why you voted that way by leaving a pro or con statement, or suggest a compromise for how we can regulate vapor differently.

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Robert Singleton

2 comments on “Is Vapor as Bad as Smoke?

  1. I do not think it should be regulated. kids do not go to other drugs from vaping. Kids only use it cause it looks cool and puts you in a calmer state of mind.

  2. Should California regulate it the same way: NO! Vapor products need to be regulated in similar ways, but not exactly the same. Here’s why –

    Ecigs are composed of a few basic parts: battery to power the device, a tank to hold the juice, coils/atomizer to burn the e-juice, and e-juice itself. E-juice is composed of a few basic ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, natural OR artificial flavoring, and nicotine. Unless you’re getting your e-juice from foreign countries, it will only be these items, and no other chemicals.

    Nicotine, in itself, is an addictive substance. Also, in it’s purest form, is extremely toxic. One thing that people don’t know, is that nicotine isn’t always pulled from tobacco, and this is why the FDA says it’s a tobacco product. The contradiction to this is, there are many e-juice companies that use nicotine derived from tomatoes, eggplants, and nightshades. From there, the nicotine goes to a pharmacy that can synthesize it to it’s most pure quality and put it into e-juice.

    In regards to the information that’s out there:
    There are a lot of studies that show that ecigs are harmful to health (both public and personal). Yet, each time a report is published, we find that the study was conducted by companies/groups that are funded by big tobacco. When it comes to what’s readily available on google, of course there’s going to be more negative publicity. Keep in mind, this is what’s going to end a multi-billion international business, and ecig companies have way less funds available compared to big tobacco.

    What should be done to help prevent children from getting this product?! Parents need to be responsible for their children. If the parents would stop giving their child credit cards to purchase the product online, that would help solve the crisis in America. Retail locations have stickers stating that the product is for 18+. Retail locations can’t risk fines due to selling to minors. So, for every parent that states that a retailer sold their minor the product, most of the time (at least 9/10), it’s false. Minors are getting this product from family members as gifts, or, from older school friends that can go into the store and purchase it for them. Tell your kids to stop lying.

    In the end, if there needs to be regulation, it should be the following:
    – In the U.S., ban import of foreign manufactured e juice.
    – Ban internet sales. This will help reduce, if not end, minors using the devices.
    – E-juice manufacturers must make their product in a clean room approved by cdc/fda
    – E-juice manufactures can’t put hazardous content in e-juice (alcohol, caffeine etc)
    – Retail locations have to treat product as alcohol/tobacco: no shoulder tapping, everyone must provide their ID for each sale, etc

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