A recent article on wired.com explores the potential dangers of the ongoing vaping backlash.
E-cigarettes have gained notable popularity in the last decade and, according to the article, are now used by over 41 million people globally. The rise of vaping has also been linked to the dropping numbers of smokers across the world and a number of countries, like, for instance, the UK, consider vaping to be one of the most effective anti-smoking aids.
However, with the recent backlash on e-cigarette use following a series of vaping related lung diseases in the US, things may be changing rapidly. A number of American states have already started clamping down on vaping gear and e-liquids: the state of Massachusetts announced a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products and in California, the Department of Public Health has urged its citizens to refrain from vaping until more is known about the mysterious vaping disease. The sale of flavored e-cigarettes is now banned in New York, Michigan and Rhode Island and a federal level ban are under consideration by the FDA.
As the US has a dominant position when it comes to forming opinions on vaping regulations, a lot of countries seem to be following suit. In September, India announced a ban on the production, import, and sale of e-cigarettes (joining Singapore and Thailand) while Malaysia, Turkey, and Israel are all considering comprehensive vaping bans.
Critics of the vaping backlash argue that the bans may actually do more harm than good and could potentially lead to more people going back to cigarettes and limiting the options for those who were ready to quit smoking.
What’s more, none of the currently implemented vaping restrictions seem to address the suspected cause of the recent lung disease outbreak as the majority of cases reported by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (a total of 805 cases and 12 deaths) seem to be linked to vaping THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. According to the CDC, they currently have data on 514 out of 805 patients and 77% of those patients admit to having used THC products prior to getting ill.
However, despite the strong evidence pointing at THC containing e-liquids as the leading cause of the outbreak, no legislation has yet been proposed to restrict or regulate these products.
Flavored e-cigarettes, however, have been under scrutiny for several years and have often been criticized for attracting teenagers to taking up vaping. This may explain why the restrictions have mostly affected flavored vapes.
However, according to Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, this might put people off quitting smoking as the new restrictions will lead to a misunderstanding about the differences in health risks between smoking and vaping. In the US alone, for instance, smoking is still responsible for over 480,000 deaths a year.
"The relative risk compared to smoking is the initial thing to be concerned about, but if people are going to carry on vaping for the long term then you need to worry about what the long term impacts might be and whether it would be better for them to quit vaping as well,” she concludes.
In most of Europe, however, vaping is still regarded as an effective anti-smoking aid and Public Health England has long been backing e-cigarettes as a way of getting people to quit smoking, saying that vaping is 95% less harmful to one’s health compared to smoking traditional cigarettes.