GSU received $1.4 million in order to better understand how regulations are affecting the vaping industry and smoking cessation efforts
Pretty much every vaper in America has had to deal with encroaching regulations and taxes at one point or another. Regardless of the evidence pointing in favor of vaping, most legislators are perfectly content demonizing the powerful harm reduction and smoking cessation tools. Even the FDA has falsely deemed vaping a “tobacco product,” requiring all independently owned vaping manufacturers to submit to the same regulations as massive tobacco companies. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, in many places, e-liquid flavors have been banned or had ridiculously high taxes placed on all vaping products sold.
The one thing all of these reactions have in common is that they only make it harder for the general population to buy into the harm reduction and smoking cessation value of e-cigarettes. In an effort to combat the clearly unfair perception of vaporizers, the National Institutes of Health recently gave a $1.4 million grant to Georgia State University so they can study the impact of vapes on society. When it’s finally complete, this research will hopefully make the role vaping plays very clear, not only for the vaping public but also for non-smokers and kids.
A few weeks back administrators at Georgia State University announced on their site that their Andrew Young School of Policy Studies had received the $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Leading the study would be Dr. Michael Pesko, who would be joined by colleagues from several other respected institutions, such as Cornell, Temple, The University of Kentucky and the University of Pennsylvania. The team would specifically be aiming to understand how things such as pricing, access, and public perception affect how people interact and think about vaporizers. They even went as far as to track how the use of e-cigarettes effects the usage of other NRTs, such as nicotine patches.
One of the things that was made most apparent by the press release was just how committed to the complexity of the topic Dr. Pesko and his team is. He put it best himself when he said, “There is a gap in understanding how to regulate or deregulate e-cigarettes in the most optimal way from the perspective of public health, and a lack of understanding of what spillover effects vaping regulations might have on other health behaviors.” He can see a world in which excess vaping regulations could ultimately harm more people than they help by overstepping bounds and forcing former smokers to return to a worse habit.
The Research On Vaping
Whenever this research is eventually published, it won’t be the first evidence looking at the effects of vaping on the general population. For example, a researcher out of Yale University published his work earlier this year looking into the impact of flavor bans on the health of the public. Dr. John Buckell and his team felt that with all of the discussion of vaping flavor bans, there ought to be much more information on what these changes could end up doing. They determined the effect of different types of flavor bans on not only the vaping industry but also how that would, in turn, affect the tobacco industry as well. After over 2,000 qualitative interviews with former smokers and vapers, the team finally had enough information to begin drawing conclusions.
The first thing that jumped out to them was the massive discrepancy in the outcome, based on if and what kind of flavor ban is put into place. The models used by the team were designed explicitly to reflect the outcomes of different types of flavor bans. Likely the most significant result of their interviews was that almost 10% of vapers would probably relapse into smoking if all e-liquid flavors were banned (except traditional tobacco and menthol). If that wasn’t clear enough, they also determined that if e-liquid flavors were left intact, but menthol was banned, the most likely outcome would be a nearly 5% drop in tobacco sales across the US in just a year.
One of the most critical things holding vaping back is the apparent refusal of legislators to simply do their job and research vaping until they can adequately regulate it without just placing it under tobacco regulations. By merely passing bans and taxes as a way to “protect the children,” we may actually be creating a world in which kids are far more likely to one day end up a lifelong smoker. The vast majority of large-scale research on vaping concludes that it’s much safer than smoking, with the most commonly referenced number being at least 95% safer.
The bottom line is that most politicians would love to keep using vaping as an easy scapegoat and headline maker. After all, polls by Action on Smoking and Health have concluded that only around 13% of adults understand just how much safer vaping is than smoking. What’s worse is the same polls find that double that number is under the impression that vaping is just as bad, if not worse than smoking. So what we need is precisely what the National Institutes of Health and Georgia State University are giving us by putting time and money into adequately understanding our regulatory actions before we blindly implement them. If we ever hope to live in a world that’s free of smoking, we must be utilizing our best tools, not discrediting them.
Do you believe that researchers need to be studying the effects of regulations on society at large? What do you think makes people the most skeptical about vaping? How can we educate more people about the real benefits of vaping? 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.