By Will Dancer
With any new fad, there is bound to be resistance, and the anti-vaping campaign led by the FDA is the latest hot-button issue for many. There is growing concern about the use of vaping devices, JUUL especially, among underaged teens and it’s reached such epidemic proportions that the federal government feels the need to step in and send out some very explicit warnings. The flavoring in vape juice is now on the chopping block because of the notion that the tastes are directly targeted at children and teens, saying that flavors such as mango and bubble gum were clearly aimed at hooking teens. Never mind the fact that vape flavoring has been an aspect of the technology since its inception.
The main issue here is that vaping, a relatively new tobacco alternative that is appealing to adults, just so happens to be appealing to teens as well. And that dreaded fear of the unknown seems to be the kickoff point.
People have asked me why I would put something in my body that could be hazardous to me in the future. Yes, vaping does have the potential to be harmful somewhere down the line. Yes, there does need to be more research involved in order for us to know for sure. Yes, nicotine is highly addictive. However, that does not warrant vaping devices receiving the same amount of criticism that cigarettes do. It’s this gross mislabeling of vaping devices as “tobacco products” that’s driving the stigma. Vaping is not necessarily a self-destructive choice, rather it is a choice to use something that is proven safer on a scale that we can measure.
While long-term consequence is the real boogie monster, report after report shows that vaping is significantly safer than smoking cigarettes or using other forms of tobacco. The benefits of vaping, that we should be celebrating, are instead being pushed aside to make way for fear mongering “what if?” style journalism pieces we see on Snapchat. This type of targeting lessens the positive impact that vaping has had over the years. It has been helping many to quit their tobacco addictions, while also helping many to save money in the process by avoiding the ridiculous prices for a pack of cigarettes.
The American Cancer Society has made a statement acknowledging vaping being less harmful than smoking. The Center for Disease Control has as well, noting vaping contains much fewer toxic chemicals. According to NerdWallet, a personal finance website, vaping is 40 percent cheaper than smoking cigarettes. These are encouraging numbers, and they’re being overshadowed by panicked hypothetical responses.
So, you’re telling me that a safer, cheaper, cleaner, more flavorful, and more unique alternative to cigarettes is having its manufacturing threatened by the U.S government because why exactly?
Where the issue arises for companies like JUUL, is simply that they are too affordable and accessible. If teens didn’t have such an easy time getting their hands on a vape, there wouldn’t be a problem.
So, for JUUL, how is it fair that the FDA can give them “two months” to find a way to prevent underage smokers from accessing a vape, according to a report by NBC News. This is not a reasonable time frame.
Should responsibility not fall on the gas stations and convenience store cashiers, whose responsibility is to card people purchasing such products? Should responsibility not fall on parents who allow or are ignorant to their teen using the devices? It’s become such a distraction that teens can vape without even leaving the classroom (NY POST), and that’s JUUL’s fault?
If the epidemic is most prevalent in our education system, shouldn’t priority number one be to fix that apparent lack of effective education? The D.A.R.E message is drilled into students’ heads since grade school and yet shockingly, that message hasn’t resonated with everyone. To compensate for their misguided and ineffective substance education, the federal government has instead moved to intimidating the companies. Nice.
The root of the problem doesn’t snake its way back to the manufacturers this time. This isn’t big tobacco hiding data, this is a technology in its early stages dodging unsounded expectations.
Once the device leaves the assembly line, how does the responsibility still fall on JUUL? Not to mention that some studies, such as one from BMC Public Health, argue underage substance use is a product of social constructs and peer pressure perpetuated by the youth in order to fit in. If this is true, how is a company like JUUL supposed to go about altering the social stigma of America’s high school population in two months? Or at all?
Like the fizzy drink ban, the dialogue always circles back around to the obvious: people should be allowed to do what they want. Even if that means putting their own health at risk. If you are of legal age to vape, it is your choice. Keep in mind the risk you take, but it is a risk you are free to make. If you are an underage user, you are cheating a broken system. Be aware of what you’re doing, but truly it’s a system perpetuated by a lack of focus in the proper areas.
Attacking an essential part of the product, like vape flavoring, is a pathetic attempt to solve the problem. That will only result in the appeal of vaping taking a decline, therefore, the positive benefits of the practice taking a hit too. Instead, the federal government should look to revamp their substance education, including educating parents on how to warn their children of the potential dangers of vaping. They should also hold stores more accountable when it comes to selling vaping products.