Opinion

Vaping can help smokers kick cigarettes

A lineup of various types of vaping pens. (Photo: Kevin Yuan, via Shutterstock)

Studies have shown that the availability of flavors is perhaps the single most important factor for those who successfully quit cigarettes by switching to vaping. But how do we protect our children from products that are not designed for them, while making sure adults who need those products continue to have access?

That is the question surrounding the current debate around e-cigarettes and vapor products. And California’s legislators, in their rush to protect our kids, are missing the point of vapor products by banning flavors.

There is no question that we should keep vapor products out of the hands of our kids. There is also no question that smoking still kills more than 500,000 Americans a year.

California’s legislators must figure out a way to protect our children, while still giving adult smokers a fighting chance at quitting combustible cigarettes.

Vaping is perhaps the most effective method for quitting cigarettes. Unlike cigarettes, vapor products offer both open and closed system modulated products that allow users to gradually wean themselves off of nicotine at their own pace with products that are at least 95% safer. This can be particularly helpful for long-time smokers who switch to vaping as a way to transition away from nicotine entirely. In fact, many vapor products do not contain nicotine at all.

In addition to allowing users to modulate their nicotine, vapor products have been one of the most successful tools that adults use to quit smoking, in part because of the flavors. Flavored vapor products are designed to give adult users a more appealing alternative to cigarette smoking.

Banning the sale of flavored vapor products defeats the purpose of one of the more groundbreaking public health innovations of the 21st century. Banning or severely limiting the flavors will only hurt those who need vapor products – adult smokers trying to lead healthier lifestyles by quitting cigarettes.

California’s legislators must figure out a way to protect our children, while still giving adult smokers a fighting chance at quitting combustible cigarettes.

But don’t take my word for it.

If the government bans flavors, many of those smokers who want to quit, won’t.

The American Cancer Society considers e-cigarettes to be “significantly less harmful” because they do not burn tobacco and do not contain the estimated 7,000 chemicals typically found in cigarettes. In fact, the Cancer Society’s own policy on vapor products found that “some smokers, despite firm clinician advice, will not attempt to quit smoking cigarettes and will not use FDA approved cessation medications. These individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products…”

Here is another fact: it’s working. A November 2018 study from Georgetown University Medical Center showed that cigarette smoking has decreased dramatically just as vapor products have gained in popularity. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the number of smokers in the United States has dropped from 20.6% in 2009 to only 14% as of 2016 – the lowest in recorded history.

If the government bans flavors, many of those smokers who want to quit, won’t. There is a heavy cost to that. The societal economic cost of smoking, including direct medical care and lost productivity, is estimated at over $300 billion annually in the United States.

Vaping products and e-cigarettes are the first innovation we’ve seen that truly has the potential to end the smoking epidemic. They are proven to be more effective than other methods, such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum. Vapor products are working and can continue to work as long as we keep protecting the right to vape.

We are a smart state. We can figure out a way to move forward and keep these products out of the hands of children without moving backwards and hurting adults who are trying to quit smoking.

Editor’s Note: Julian Canete is the president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of  Commerce.


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