Vaping as Alternative to Smoking

By Cindy M. Huss posted 08-12-2019 08:36


In June, Michigan amended its Youth Tobacco Act to prohibit the sale or furnishing of vapor products or alternative nicotine products to a minor. 2019 PA 17, 18. Since 2016, the FDA has been treating e-cigarettes like tobacco and banning sales to anyone under 18 years of age. There was a subsequent push for state legislation to support better enforcement. Michigan was one of the last states to adopt this type of ban. The governor is concerned that this law does not go far enough, i.e., to regulate e-cigarettes and vaping products as tobacco products, but it does offer penalties to support enforcement. The fines for selling e-cigarettes to minors are up to $100 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense. San Francisco took an even more aggressive approach and became the first city in the country to completely ban e-cigarettes. The bill passed on June 25, 2019, was needed, says one of the coauthors, to “keep [e-cigarettes] out of the hands of young people.”

Just in the last few months, an adult family member has been trying to kick his smoking habit by vaping. Now, given this new prohibition, I’m wondering how safe vaping is and whether it is an effective tool in helping smokers quit. My family member claims he has noticed health improvements since he is no longer inhaling tar-laden hot smoke. He also acknowledges, however, that inhaling hot vapors loaded with nicotine and other chemicals can’t be healthy.

The top banner on the website for JUUL, a leading manufacturer of vapor products based out of San Francisco, warns that nicotine is an addictive chemical. JUUL’s stated mission is to “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” It describes its product as easy to use with regulated temperature control. JUUL says its “uses cigarette-like strength nicotine levels via proprietary e-liquid in order to meet the satisfaction standards of cigarette smokers” and “[b]y accommodating cigarette-like nicotine levels, JUUL provides satisfaction to meet the standards of smokers looking to switch from smoking cigarettes.” Its “e-liquid formulation” combines glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavor, nicotine, and benzoic acid. Yikes.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, vaping exposes the user to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes, which contain 7,000 chemicals, but it is still probably bad for your health. The passage of time and studies will be needed to accurately assess the long-term health impact of vaping. There are also conflicting opinions on the effectiveness of vaping in helping smokers quit. The American Lung Association questions vaping’s safety and effectiveness for ending a smoking habit. The CDC, however, says vaping has the “potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.” Critics of the San Francisco ban worry that completely banning e-cigarettes eliminates a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.

My family member who is now vaping began smoking in high school even after watching an older family die slowly and painfully from COPD related to smoking. Personal life experiences, education, and laws cannot stop all people, especially young people, from taking on a dangerous habit. But I guess that does not mean that we stop trying.