Flavored vapes have become the latest outrage among anti-vaping activists, who claim, without evidence, that the existence of flavored vape liquids encourages underage vaping. Activists are right to want to keep vapes away from teens, just as a society also has rules in place to keep alcohol and tobacco out of the hands of those under the age of 21.
But in their zeal to be the protectors of youth, those activists have taken a different path, effectively setting up a double-standard in which vaping age restrictions would go beyond keeping it out of the hands of teens, to affect adults as well. No such rules exist for any other product or have ever been proposed since alcohol Prohibition was passed in 1920. Alcohol Prohibition was, of course, a massive failure, triggered widespread crime, and created a new era of bootlegging that saw the manufacture of unsafe products that caused serious harm and even death. Vaping Prohibition would be no different.
Despite activist claims to the contrary, flavored vapes are favored by adults who vape. A survey of adults who have used e-cigarettes found extensive use of flavored vapes from all adult subgroups, including former smokers. The most prevalent flavors preferred by adults who vape were fruit flavors, and dessert/pastry/bakery flavors. The study showed that adult smokers considered flavored vapes, especially important to their efforts to quit smoking.
Studies have shown that vaping is more effective by far than other nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches or chewing gum. While patches have a disappointingly high failure rate, those who switch to vaping are much more successful in quitting cigarettes. The reason is obvious. Quitting smoking is about more than the nicotine fix; there are psychological and social factors at play.
The simple hand-to-mouth action of smoking cannot be replaced by putting a patch on one’s arm. Also, the social factor is compelling, and there is a strong “identity” factor involved when people smoke together. Stepping outside for a smoke with friends is psychologically satisfying, and smoking itself is a social activity. Putting a patch on your arm is done in solitude and those using the patch lose out on that social aspect they enjoyed as a smoker. Vaping, on the other hand, satisfies that social aspect.
Online vendors like Vapor Authority have excelled at offering a wide variety of dessert flavored e-juice, and fruit flavors like strawberry and apple, while implementing rigorous third-party age control measures. Do adults then, enjoy flavors? Absolutely. What person has not, at some point in their adult life, dug into their kids’ sugary breakfast cereal? No, Trix is not just for kids. Have you as an adult ever enjoyed a Snickers bar? Walked through the county fair with a big stick of cotton candy? When out on a date at a fancy restaurant, do you, as an adult, look over at the dessert tray and look forward to that big hunk of chocolate cake?
Sure. Adults like flavors, whether it’s a dessert, a fine liqueur, a flavored cigar, or yes, even a flavored vape. The legitimate desire to keep vaping, tobacco, and alcohol out of the hands of teens is no reason to keep it from adults who enjoy those things as well.
Yet despite overwhelming evidence that is vaping, and specifically flavored vaping, helps adults quit smoking, and that vaping contains far fewer toxins than do cigarettes, flavor ban legislation efforts continue unabated. Many such efforts not only propose to ban flavored e-liquids, but they also attempt to include menthol, as well as mentholated cigarettes and cigars, in thinly-veiled racist policies that claim to be protecting minorities. The most draconian legislative efforts would fully ban anything that does not taste like pure unadulterated tobacco.
One would wonder about the fervor with which anti-vaping activists promote such legislation, why they do not also attempt to prohibit any type of flavored alcohol in a similar attempt to keep it out of the hand of teenagers who might seek to take a drink. Using the same logic, it would seem the natural thing to do would be to enact bans on flavored vodka, all types of liqueur and fruit wines, as well as craft beers imbued with some of the more unusual flavors preferred by hipster drinkers of age, forcing all breweries and distilleries to sell drinks which taste only of pure alcohol and nothing else.
As expert witnesses weigh in as Congress considers vape bans, one witness said that a flavor ban would not only harm countless thousands of small businesses, it would also harm ex-smokers who had already quit smoking in favor of less harmful vaping because of the availability of flavored e-liquids.
The facts are in: Flavored vaping helps adult smokers quit smoking. The testimony also gave credence to the argument that was a full flavor ban to be implemented, an emerging black market would almost certainly grow in size and scope, and the resulting bootleg products would be less safe, would not adhere to industry standards as do commercial vape products, and the possibility of FDA oversight helping to regulate the industry and set standards would all but disappear.
It was just such a black market that led to the EVALI scare. The lung-related illnesses were initially thought to be the result of conventional vaping, and it was later shown that nearly every instance of vaping-related lung disease was the result of vaping illegal, black market THC products.
Recently passed legislation designed to limit flavored options in an attempt to curb underage vaping effectively eliminated the option for adults. The Federal ban specifically targeted cartridge-based vaping products, not open tank systems or disposables.
The federal ban, as well as all local, regional, and statewide bans, have not and will not serve the intended purpose of keeping nicotine and vaping away from children. Rather, it will only keep a valuable product away from adults who wish to leverage the benefits offered by vaping as a means of quitting smoking, and away from adults who simply want to enjoy flavors.