Should vaping be limited?
No: The state should avoid additional restrictions on the freedoms of adults
By Justin Newman
Originally printed in The Register-Guard
The Oregon House of Representatives has decided for the time being against moving forward with legislation to regulate the sale and use of vapor devices and liquids — an increasingly popular, technology-driven alternative to tobacco products, sometimes categorized as e-cigarettes.
Such caution is well-advised. While nearly everyone supports proposals to keep nicotine-containing products out of children’s hands, the state should avoid placing additional restrictions on the freedoms of adults.
It is important to understand what “vapor” and “vaping” is — and what it isn’t. Vaping is the inhalation of a vaporized liquid through a battery-powered, handheld vaporizer that heats liquid to a gaseous state. The liquid — also called e-liquid, juice and e-juice — is typically made up of a food-grade, vegetable-based solution mixed with flavors and nicotine; the latter two ingredients are optional. Many companies, including mine, offer nicotine-free juices, and tobacco is not used in our liquids.
Vaping is very different from smoking. With just a few ingredients, vaping creates a water-based vapor by the same process that steam is created when boiling liquid on your stove, all without combustion.
By contrast, cigars, pipes and cigarettes all burn tobacco, creating a smoke that contains thousands of chemicals, including a large number that are known to cause cancer. The health effects of smoking tobacco have been researched extensively and have been proven unequivocally to be detrimental. The same is not true of vaping.
Relatively few scientific studies have been done to examine the effects of vaping. Of the studies conducted on this emerging industry, evidence suggests that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes, and that it may be as safe as other nicotine replacement products such as the nicotine patch.
From my experience, I believe that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, and that it can be an effective smoking cessation tool for many. It provides a replacement for the oral fixation many smokers have difficulty giving up, with or without the addition of nicotine replacement
While purely anecdotal, I feel better since I stopped smoking and switched to vaping. My lungs don’t hurt from the chemicals and particles I sucked in when smoking, and I no longer get breathless during physical exertion. My clothes and breath don’t stink, and my teeth have stopped yellowing. I began jogging again.
However, I believe it is imperative that the sale of vaping products to minors be banned. Although it is not illegal, nicotine is an addictive drug. While its use by informed adults should be protected, vaping products should be regulated — just as nicotine patches and alcohol are — to ensure that they do not end up in the hands of children.
For this reason, I fully supported House Bill 4073, introduced by state Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, to ban the sale of vapor devices, liquids and e-cigarettes to people younger than 18. While I and many of my peers in the vaping industry already have voluntarily, as a matter of company policy, banned sales to minors, HB 4073 would help protect children by ensuring that no one in Oregon sells to minors.
A second proposal, however, tied the ban on sales to minors to a statewide ban on adult vaping in public places. House Bill 4115, introduced by state Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, would have treated vaping the same as smoking, banning it not only in all public buildings, but also in privately owned businesses and restaurants.
The detrimental effects of secondhand tobacco smoke are well documented, but there is no similar evidence currently to suggest that “secondhand vapor” should be cause for concern. Research conducted by Dr. Igor Burstyn of the Drexel University School of Public Health, based on more than 9,000 observations of e-cigarette liquid and vapor, found “no apparent concern” for bystanders exposed to e-cigarette vapor, even under “worst case” assumptions about exposure.
Unless adequate research proves there is, in fact, a health risk associated with secondhand vapor, it should not be considered a public health issue warranting the kind of outright ban proposed by HB 4115. Because no such research exists at this time, the choice to allow or restrict vaping should be left to individual business owners and public institutions; a public ban is premature.
While I believe vaping is safe, more scientific, peer-reviewed research must be done to determine the effect the practice has on personal and public health, if any, as well as its efficacy as a smoking cessation tool. I would welcome and encourage a more robust discussion, based on good science, about these concerns in the months ahead.
As the Legislature prepares to consider these issues in its 2015 session, we should urge lawmakers to take a step in the right direction and protect children by banning the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products to minors.
Justin Newman is vice president for sales and distribution for Springfield-based Emerald Vapors.