Vaping: Controversial, but it has saved lives

A man vaping as he enjoys coffee in a cafe. (Photo: Aliaksandr Barouski, via Shutterstock)

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding proposed legislation to ban flavored vaping products. I’ve seen and read many articles that cast vaping in a negative light. But, before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, I encourage you to consider the true impacts. Restricting access to flavored vapor products is restricting access to a product that has saved lives and helped smokers quit- including myself.

I was a smoker who made many attempts to quit smoking cigarettes. I tried many different techniques—cold turkey, cutting back, reducing nicotine strengths—nothing worked. The uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms hurt my body and affected my personality, I would grow angry and nervous until I was able to have that regularly scheduled cigarette. I just couldn’t stop. Every failed attempt led me back to smoking.

Quitting cigarettes completely changed my life. My health improved and I stopped smelling poorly. After being smoke-free for six months, my baby finally hugged me again.

Then, something happened that made me finally realize I needed to find an answer. My 10-year-old daughter refused to hug me anymore. She said I just smelled too gross.

I couldn’t stand the thought of losing hugs from my daughter. So, within 6 months I switched to flavored vapor products. I figured vaping would simply help me cut down cigarette smoking. I started with a goal of three days, no smoking, only vaping. I was able to complete all three days, cigarette free. On day four, I tried a cigarette and to my surprise, it tasted horrible. Two weeks later, I tried again, same results. I was finally free from my cigarette addiction.

Quitting cigarettes completely changed my life. My health improved and I stopped smelling poorly. After being smoke-free for six months, my baby finally hugged me again. I went one whole year without a hug from my daughter.

I still remember the day she finally hugged me again. She squeezed me as hard as she could. I never want to lose my daughter’s hugs again and I’m sure there are millions of adults who feel the same way.

I am proud to say that after smoking cigarettes for 25 years, I have been cigarette-free for more than two and a half years. I can say with certainty, if I did not have access to flavored e-liquid products I would not have been able to quit smoking cigarettes. Flavored vapor products give adult users a more appealing alternative to cigarettes smoking and evidence shows that flavors are a critical factor for those attempting to quit cigarettes.

I also get that we need to protect our kids from products that aren’t designed for them. I don’t want my daughter vaping any more than she wants me smoking. Vape products shouldn’t be marketed to kids and we should do everything we can to ensure they can’t buy them.

I’ve read editorials that say something to the effect of “Well, these bans may hurt vape businesses and that’s a tough break.” But there is more to consider than shops going out of business. These bans would take away a critical tool for the more than 32 million Americans that want to quit smoking.

We are a smart state. Surely, there’s a way to keep these products away from our kids without taking away a tool that helps adults like me quit smoking. I support strict marketing standards to protect our youth but banning flavors will only hurt those who need vapor products. I urge California’s legislators to protect our children, while still giving adult smokers a fighting chance at quitting combustible cigarettes.

Editor’s Note:  Doug  Otter was a cigarette smoker for 25 years before switching to vaping. He is a resident of Sacramento.

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