Is Vaping Banned?
Is Vaping Banned?
Over the last few months, it seems the idea of banning vaping has been increasingly touted as a cure-all for the dual problems of underage access to vapor products and a pneumonia-like lung illness that’s sickened thousands of people across the country.
While both of these issues are valid concerns, evidence suggests that a blanket ban on nicotine vaping is not necessarily a solution to either. And a flurry of sensational news coverage has resulted in a patchwork of laws that are likely to leave vapers confused as to their own legal status and ability to purchase tobacco alternatives.
Let’s take a look at what’s been going on, and address how it might affect your situation.
First came the issue of underage vaping. As far back as late 2018, the federal Food and Drug Administration had declared an epidemic problem existed with teens vaping. Vapor products had already existed for years and until 2017 had largely been treated as a fad by minors, with few experimenting with the devices and even fewer going on to become regular users.
That changed with the introduction of the Juul, a next-generation cigalike device that packed a punch of 10-20 times as much nicotine as had previously been popular with larger advanced mod devices. Within a short period of time, even the phrase “vaping” was abandoned by teens who were now “juuling” much more than they’d ever used existing vapor products.
Despite the existence of flavors dating back to the very beginning of the vape phenomenon, and overwhelming evidence that adults preferred non-tobacco options while pursuing quit-smoking attempts, critics latched onto the popularity of flavors like mango as proof that vapor manufacturers were targeting children with their products.
Juul, now backed by a multi-billion-dollar investment from Marlboro parent Altria, agreed to voluntarily pull its fruit and dessert flavors from the US market. Teen users of its product, however, quickly switched to mint, the only remaining flavor aside from menthol and tobacco. The company followed up by canceling mint as well.
Meanwhile, new fears surrounding vaping were cropping up. A “mysterious vaping illness” began claiming victims across the country this summer, sickening more than two thousand people and killing dozens. Many of the victims were teens and young adults.
Critics of vaping seized on this latest health crisis as further reasoning behind a blanket ban on vaping, or at least a ban on the vaping of flavored products. Politicians, spurred by the reported injuries, began taking up the idea of a complete vaping ban, or at least a ban on flavored vapor products. President Donald Trump in September even floated the idea of a nationwide ban via tweet.
Reactions to the twin crises have been varied, with both the pro- and anti-vapor camps escalating their arguments.
We’ve already mentioned Juul voluntarily accepting a flavor ban. This makes sense for a handful of reasons. First, the company is facing the sharpest criticism from the underage vaping problem, owing to its widespread popularity among teens and early advertising critics say targeted them, so it felt bold action was necessary. And by partnering with Big Tobacco, the company stands to lose a lot less if fewer adults in the future switch from smoking to vaping. Finally, the high levels of nicotine in its product seem to be what the firm is more interested in defending than flavors - they’ve even hired lobbyists in the UK to push for permission to sell their US products that are currently banned due to their nicotine content.
For the rest of the vaping world, however, flavors aren’t so easy to abandon. Most e-liquid manufacturers are small businesses that rely on their skill in crafting appealing recipes to make sales, meaning thousands of jobs would be lost if flavors were banned. Adult vapers would also lose, since the vast majority of them prefer non-tobacco flavors, so much so that they rallied in Washington earlier this month to protest a proposed ban.
While vape ban proposals dominated the headlines, evidence quietly emerged that flavored nicotine e-liquids weren’t even related to the vaping disease outbreak. Instead, vitamin E acetate, a thick oil used to dilute THC in black-market marijuana vapes, was tied to virtually every reported illness. Because nicotine vaping involves water-soluble fluids, oils are never used to create e-liquids.
Unfortunately, neither the proof that flavors aren’t tied to lung illness nor the argument that adults have vaped flavors responsibly, nor the existence of unenforced laws that already prohibit minors from purchasing or using vapor products, have done much to sway activists who insist on pursuing vapor bans.
So, is Vaping Banned?
The ultimate answer to the question of whether vaping is banned comes down to where in the United States you live.
Federally, vapers scored a win as the Trump administration backed off its earlier suggestion of an outright ban. During a meeting with both vaping advocates and opponents last week, the president suggested he’d be open to the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vapor products to 21, but expressed concerns about job losses and the creation of a black market if a ban were implemented.
In state houses and city councils across the country, however, bans have proved more popular. San Francisco, the first city in the nation to ban flavored e-liquids last year, went a step further last week and banned all vapor products, including those purchased by mail. New York City also voted this week to ban flavored e-liquids. Massachusetts, which had previously banned vaping entirely as a reaction to the marijuana-related illnesses, will soon allow the sale of menthol and tobacco vapes but maintain a restriction on flavors. Michigan and Oregon, meanwhile, have had attempts to ban vaping held up by state courts.In short, it’s a wild, wild world when it comes to keeping track of vape laws these days. One thing that’s sure: regardless of whether evidence exists to support total or partial bans on vaping, vapor opponents are currently redoubling their efforts to curtail adult access to product. If this is concerning, consider joining a consumer advocacy group like CASAA and taking action to protect your rights.