- - Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the deadly danger of cigarette smoking, the government and media are now weirdly obsessing over one of the few proven tools to help smokers quit smoking. Vaping, which contains no tobacco and uses electronic devices, also called e-cigarettes, to produce vapor from liquids instead of burning tobacco, is used by millions of adults to help wean them off cigarettes. However, vaping is now being hysterically touted by some as an “epidemic” and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning the manufacturing of flavored vaping liquids. 

States such as Hawaii have attempted vaping bans and failed, while municipalities such ultra-leftist San Francisco, which has a real epidemic of illegal drug use and filthy drug needles littering its streets, has stupidly focused instead on banning the sale of vaping liquids. Hypocritically, California legalized marijuana sales in 2018, and San Francisco supervisors absurdly voted in favor of creating “safe injection sites” to cut down on illegal drug overdoses and dangerous needle litter. Where is the logic in legalizing pot smoking and illegal drug use but banning vaping? Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health whose research focuses on tobacco reduction, called the ban an “insane public policy.”

This bizarre new obsession with vaping is allegedly justified by reports that while teenage cigarette smoking has decreased substantially, teenagers are vaping in increasing number. And this may be true. But, like real cigarettes, vaping with e-cigarettes is intended for adults. I started vaping occasionally using flavored liquids without any nicotine to help friends who smoked wean off their toxic cigarette habit. They would vape using liquids with nicotine, gradually reducing the amount of nicotine until they were nicotine-free. 

Dr. Neal Benowitz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a leading expert on nicotine, said of the San Francisco ban, “The risks of e-cigarettes kids are using now are unknown and of concern. But … the logical thing would be to focus more on restricting youth access to these devices … I think e-cigarettes should have remained available in places like tobacco shops and online access, where there’s verification of age.”

Sadly, much of the reporting on this topic is shoddy or misleading. Recent stories of medical issues allegedly related to vaping cite “over one hundred” cases for example, but don’t say whether the vapers in question were using legal vaping products, or marijuana or some black-market substances, in their e-cigarettes. What we do know for certain is that real tobacco cigarettes kill in massive numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.” This is about 1,300 deaths every day. 

Minorities should be especially concerned about this bizarre obsession with banning vaping. African-Americans and Latinos tend to have less health insurance coverage and less health care access than Anglos, meaning they are less likely to have access to medical treatments to quit. Additionally, according to the CDC, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke — all related to cigarette smoking — are among the five leading causes of death among Hispanics and the three leading causes of death heart disease cancer and stroke for African-Americans. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40 percent higher for cigarette smokers than nonsmokers.

While vaping may not be 100 percent safe (few things are), an independent review by Public Health England determined that e-cigarettes are “around 95 percent safer” than traditional cigarettes. This prompted the Science and Technology Committee of the British Parliament to suggest vaping devices should be made available through the U.K. National Health Service as a proven way to quit smoking. This is one time the British Health System may be on the right track. 

Controlling underage vaping is a valid concern and must be addressed, but it should be done at the retail level as it is now done with cigarette sales, by strictly verifying age. It should not be accomplished by the Nanny State targeting and banning the production of an entire class of product that does considerable good to millions of adults trying to end a deadly addiction.

• Paul Crespo is a public policy expert and former Republican congressional candidate in South Florida. He previously taught political science as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami.

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