The panic currently gripping the public at the time of writing is at an all-time high.
The Current Landscape of Vaping
Lung illnesses linked to vaping are popping all over the United States with incidents now appearing in Canada.
Here’s the problem: There’s no evidence to suggest traditional vaping is behind the incidents.
The CDC however, suspects possible contamination of street-purchased THC products, made to be used in e-cigarette devices. The key phrase in that sentence is “street-purchased”.
The media has taken the focus away from this and put it on the fact that these affected users have a history of e-cigarette use - underemphasizing, or in some cases completely avoiding any mention of street-made THC or CBD products.
It has been speculated that Tocopheryl-Acetate (vitamin E oil) is to blame. It's frequently used in the black-market for street-made e-liquid, usually containing THC. You can read more on these substances and the problems with inhalation of these chemicals here.
If the public were to use simple logic, they would be able to see that while approximately 530 cases of lung disease have appeared, there are well over 41-million e-cigarette users worldwide (according to WHO). That means less than 0.001% of the vaping population have been affected by this problem.
Fear-mongering and the Deadly Results
It’s no secret that smoking remains to be the leading cause of preventable death in North America. So, why are the mainstream media and certain anti-vaping groups exaggerating the problem - ignoring the fact that users could go back to smoking combustible cigarettes?
Articles and comments across various social and other online platforms, including the popular website VICE, show that individuals are confirming that they’ve been scared back into their habit of smoking.
We, as a society, know the health implications of smoking. We know that it can easily lead to an onslaught of lung issues, cardiovascular problems and even brain damage. These facts have mountains of evidence supporting them.
Yet, the fear that mainstream media and politicians are pushing into the public space is so powerful, they’re literally scaring people back into choosing that over an alternative that’s over 90% less harmful.
There are still 99.999% of e-cigarette users who are successfully avoiding the negative health effects of smoking, while also avoiding the incidents of acute lung disease appearing across the continent. But that could easily change in the next few months as the FDA and CDC react in a volatile way causing policy-makers to make poor decisions that will affect the lives of millions of vapers.
How a country like the United States reacts to a situation, influences countries’ stances on a subject all around the globe - especially just across the border in Canada. Not to mention the effect on the industry as businesses that rely on the import/export of vape-related goods is affected.
What do the experts say?
Professor David Abrams from New York University explained to CBS and it’s viewers, we’re on the verge of blowing “single biggest public health opportunity we’ve ever had…”
He also explains why the mistrust for vaping is due to Big Tobacco getting heavily involved in the industry. You can watch the full interview below:
What else could be causing panic around vaping?
Alongside the most recent negative attention, it could also be attributed to the fear that vaping is “normalizing” smoking for youth. But the evidence proves just the opposite:
The prevalence of frequent cigarette-use in adolescents, as seen above, has been declining steadily since the late-70s and even more so since the late-90s. With vaping rates increasing among all age groups, it’s clear that vaping doesn’t normalize smoking nor does it entice kids to move-on to smoking combustible cigarettes.
The truth about teen vaping
The University of Waterloo (Canada) cited the following from a 2017 dataset:
Approximately 12% of Canadian students in grades 7-9 reported having ever tried an e-cigarette.
Approximately 5% has used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.
- Over 60% of current smokers in grades 7-9 had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days
Only 5% of e-cigarette users (last 30 days) were non-smokers.
This data doesn’t include frequent e-cigarette use (would be lower than 5%) implies vaping is even being used as a cessation method in younger groups, and that calling teen-vaping an “epidemic” in Canada is only exacerbating fear and spreading false information.
Most parents don’t want their children smoking, vaping or drinking. But the reality is far from the Utopian expectations from parents.
Even in the United States where the legal drinking age is predominantly 21, almost 11% of all alcohol consumed in the country is done so by teenagers.
Around 8.1% of high-school students have smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days (according to 2018 CDC data)
Regulating Vaping and Banning Flavours
While vaping may need more regulation or possible measures to ensure a lower e-cigarette usage rate among youth, it’s not advisable to move towards flavour bans and prohibition-style policies as it will likely drive smoking rates back up as many users find the fruit and candy flavours more appealing than traditional smoking.
Smoking rates across multiple countries have seen an incredible decrease since the introduction of e-cigarettes - it's in the interest of public health that we do everything we can to reduce this number to zero.
In addition, these bans and regulations may increase black-market sales of these products - which is what likely sparked the lung disease issue we’re seeing in the media today.
E-cigarette users should most certainly push back against any sort of ban or prohibition-style policy in Canada and do what they can to support the industry if they want to continue to have access to their favourite flavours.