The adults in my life are pretty clueless when it comes to vaping. This summer, my dad asked if I knew anything about JUULs, which turned into a discussion about vapes and e-cigarettes in general. I do not own one myself, so my answers were based purely off of what little I have read or heard from friends. Yet my small base of knowledge seemed like a mountain compared to his understanding.
Vaping has been in the news a lot lately. Lung illnesses ascribed to e-cigarettes have beset hundreds, and seven people have died so far. Unsurprisingly, many are becoming concerned. Earlier this month, President Trump advocated for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. While this move itself might have merit, the motivations behind it are suspect.
Like my dad, most adults have a limited understanding of vapes – this is one reason the outcry has been so vicious and abrupt.
Over the past few years, individuals from older generations have become more aware of e-cigarettes as a concept, and maybe even know of a few brands. They are also aware, as of late, that e-cigarettes are linked to a mysterious lung disease. From that standpoint, it would be easy to ask what differentiates these things from the traditional cigarettes they have been fighting all this time. This is a fair argument, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
To be clear, I am not advocating for the use of vapes or e-cigarettes. In fact, let me take this time to recommend not vaping. Nicotine alone is very addictive, and the long-term health consequences of vaping are still unclear – this in itself offers a good reason to avoid JUULs and other vapes. There are, however, a few key factors that should be considered when comparing the safety and utility of vapes versus traditional cigarettes.
First, and perhaps most importantly, vapes lack tobacco and the many harmful chemicals present in cigarette smoke. While vape juice and pods do still contain potentially harmful chemicals, even an incrementally healthier combination could make them worth using over cigarettes.
Most vapes also distribute much less nicotine than traditional cigarettes (though this advantage obviously depends on the user and how much they vape).
However, it is difficult to base any kind of meaningful argument on these advantages given the lack of research into the safety of vaping. This is really where the problem stems from and the reason I think certain decisions and actions are being made prematurely.
Research on the effects of vaping reveals a pattern of conjecture and imprecise conclusions. Some articles provide examples of effects, both harmful and beneficial, but variables like how long the subjects had vaped, how much they vaped per day, or what brand of vape they used remain incredibly inconsistent.
We need to be careful when considering a ban on vapes or flavored vape juice. Vapes and e-cigarettes could present an invaluable alternative to traditional cigarettes. While their use certainly shouldn’t be promoted to non-smokers, stigmatizing them could lead to more deaths and illnesses than a ban would prevent.
Dalton Rains ’22 is from Ankeny, Iowa. His major is undecided.