Banning vapes may be misguided

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Nicotine products on display at a Certified convenience store (Gavin Robinson/BluePrints)

Gavin Robinson

Vaping has been a topic of controversy ever since it became frighteningly popular with underage users. While most vaping products claim they intend to help smokers cut back on their habit, vaping has, in fact, attracted new nicotine users due to its convenience and claimed lower health risk. Unfortunately, more and more patients, including minors, are suffering from lung conditions that are now being linked to illegal cannabis vaping products.

In the wake of deaths and an epidemic of illness, President Trump’s administration has expressed its desire to ban flavored nicotine products. However, focusing on flavored vapes is a deflection from the real issue, which is the sale of black market vaping products, and in particular cannabis products. 

The only way to completely stop the sale of toxic cannabis vaping products would be for the federal government to legalize and heavily regulate them. Adults will have a safe, tested option to purchase cannabis products, which will reduce the power of the black market. Minors therefore would no longer be able to purchase vaping products as easily, as legitimate sources will not sell to those under 21, and less black market dealers would be able to operate.

In New York, where dozens of vape-related lung illnesses have been reported, the state Health Department issued a warning that vitamin E found in illegal cannabis vaping products may be responsible. Cannabis vaping products sold in illegal states are completely unregulated, and therefore can be adulterated and diluted with potentially toxic substances.

However, cannabis vaping is not the sole culprit for the recent outbreak, and nicotine addiction among minors is still an issue. Tobacco 21 initiatives have been proven to be effective in reducing tobacco use among minors. Tobacco 21 programs typically raise the minimum age of purchase for cigarettes, vaping products, and other smoking paraphernalia to 21 instead of 18. On Nov. 1, the legal age for tobacco will be raised to 21 throughout Ohio.

While underage vaping is surely a concern, banning nicotine flavors is misguided. Instead, Tobacco 21 laws and the regulation of cannabis products will both eliminate dangerous black market products and discourage underage use.