Electronic cigarettes and vape pens have exploded in popularity over the last decade. They are rumored to provide tobacco users with a slightly safer alternative to get their nicotine fix, as well as a more acceptable way to enjoy nicotine in public. They also offer a new way for the guy you wish wasn’t invited to a party to attempt to impress people by blowing smoke rings.
On Sept. 6, the CDC announced they were investigating an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products. The investigation is ongoing, but the CDC said that all reported cases have a history of using e-cigarette products.
E-cigarettes continue to become a more controversial product. According to the CDC, over 450 possible cases of lung illness were reported as of early September, and in all of those cases the patient had some history of e-cigarette usage.
There has been speculation that criminalization of these devices is on the horizon, but is this the case?
The most important aspect of this debate is that, while it’s shocking that a sudden spree of illness and loss of life has been attributed to vaping, critics must note that the U.S. Surgeon General has not found a common link or correlation between cases yet.
There’s simply not enough information available right now to determine if these cases will be the tipping point in the fight to bring on the criminalization process.
We must look at several factors, such as: in the cases, were users modifying their e-cigarettes or vape pens in a way that the manufacturers did not intend? How much of the product was being consumed by those who are ill? Is this sudden uprising of sickness caused by a specific batch of tainted cartridges or defective e-cigarettes?
The extent of the damage vaping can cause is something that hasn’t been fully tested yet.
Vaping, or the usage of e-cigarettes of any kind, are commonly used by people trying to quit smoking regular cigarettes. While trying to kick the habit is a noble effort, it might unfortunately prove to be a damaging one when a cigarette is replaced by a vape pen.
Trust me, as somebody who has had their family negatively impacted by using tobacco products, I want there to be as few people using them as possible. Siding with the tobacco industry (who would likely benefit from any bans or criminalization of vaping products) on this issue feels like rooting for the bad guy, but there will need to be more evidence before there will be any federal ban of e-cigarettes.
At most, I see a crackdown on these products at a state level, but not a federal level yet.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has already vowed to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges in her state. Texas has recently raised the age to legally purchase any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.
While I see many states possibly changing their laws to put harsher restrictions on e-cigarettes and comparable products, it might be a while before we see noteworthy legislation changes on a federal level.
Furthermore, there’s always going to be an element of “you knew the risks” involved with any sort of nicotine product usage that would discourage a nationwide ban.
The issue of electronic cigarettes and the health effects involved with their usage is not going away soon. While we are on the verge of seeing many states change their stances on the products, we are still far away from a nationwide change of policy, for better or worse.