Gov. Andrew Cuomo is once again taking a stand against vaping, but critics are concerned he’s focused on the wrong things
The fight over how to handle vaping is ongoing, with little signs of stopping. Legislators around the country and world are working to agree on a path forward in their respective jurisdictions. It should come at no surprise then that so many places have ended up with entirely different policies, and those are constantly changing with new evidence. Unfortunately, these changes are not always positive, as fear of the unknown sometimes leads politicians to pursue harsh vaping regulations despite the growing pile of evidence which suggests vaping is much safer than smoking. One such place is New York State, whose Governor recently announced they’d be aiming to implement a few critical changes in their e-cigarette policy for 2019.
This type of decision is now more common as the vaping industry has become harder to ignore. Places such as the UK have chosen to back e-cigarettes for their harm reduction and smoking cessation value, and as a result, reached their lowest smoking rate ever recorded. Alternatively, some experts suggest that places which restrict vaping are likely making matters worse for themselves than if they properly regulated and educated the public. So as New York positions itself for some significant changes, only time will tell if they’ll ultimately make things better or worse.
Governor Andrew Cuomo continued his busy 2019 by announcing last week New York would be moving forward with several regulations aimed at curbing youth tobacco and e-cigarette use. He’s said they plan on having these measure implemented as part of their 2019 budget, and he expects the Democrat-controlled State Senate and Assembly to pass them with no issue. One of the most noted changes would be raising the age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 statewide. This move has been met with mixed reaction, but many in the vaping community are much more concerned with some of the other things proposed by Gov. Cuomo.
The regulation which could have the most significant impact on New York vapers is likely the proposed power to ban any e-liquid flavor deemed dangerous to the youth. As with the FDA, New York state seems to be worried e-liquid flavors are attracting teens while serving no legitimate function for adult vapers. The truth is that reports have shown flavor bans are likely have the opposite impact as desired, with Big Tobacco sales actually increasing when e-liquid flavor bans are passed. Regardless, the move would give state health agencies the power to ban any flavor they choose. Other potential changes proposed include banning sale and advertising of vaping products anywhere except adult-only stores such as smoke shops. Another would restrict the ability of retailers to give discounts on vaping products, as they’re seen as circumventing the taxes meant to curb teenage use.
The Case For E-Cigarettes
Making the potential regulations on the vaping industry that much worse is the growing evidence which strongly indicates the extreme harm reduction and smoking cessation value of e-cigarettes. Back in 2015, we got our first piece of reputable evidence which indicated vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Since then, that type of figure has been backed up time and time again, even as recently as last month when a paper found vapor contains about 93% fewer toxicants than cigarette smoke. But probably the most compelling piece of evidence for the harm reduction value of vaping is the report which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than a demographically similar smoker.
In addition to the harm reduction value, we also have plenty of reason to believe vaping is a game-changing smoking cessation tool. A report published by researchers at the University of Louisville tested the success rate of most common smoking cessation methods, ranging from cold turkey through prescription drugs. After analyzing everything they collected, it became quite clear that vaping is more likely to lead to a successful quit attempt than anything else, including the new drugs. But at the end of the day, the most important reason we have to support vaping, instead of equating it with smoking, is the evidence which indicates concerns over teenage usage are overblown. A report of over 60,000 students concluded that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens were ever picking up vaporizers habitually.
Misguided regulations like those proposed in New York could have a massive impact on the vaping industry moving forward. The public perception is already woeful, so further efforts to undermine the harm reduction tools are just beating a dead horse. Instead, legislators should be taking a good hard look at the evidence we have and adjust their strategies accordingly. If we continue to make our policy changes based on what anecdotal evidence says, there’s no telling where we’ll find ourselves. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease around the world, so if we genuinely want to stop it once and for all, we simply must support vaping.
Are you surprised New York is moving to change vaping regulations? What’s the most important thing to remember when teaching others about vaping? How should we prove to legislators that vaping should be taken seriously as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.