The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Federal ban is not the solution to e-cigarette misuse

4 min read


Viewpoints Editor

The rise of e-cigarette-related injury has given way to recent conversation and action aimed at pulling related products off the market. However, in the wake of newly discovered health risks, it’s important to remember this problem came from user-error, not just the product.

E-cigarettes were designed as a quitting aid to provide smokers a more comfortable and familiar way to break their habit, not as a new source of addiction. Rather than banning the sale of e-cigarettes, these products should be made available by prescription only to restore their intended purpose.

As of Sept. 11, 2019, the Trump administration began pulling heavy weights for the ban and restriction of e-cigarettes. Following that, individual states began to take action. Most recently, New York Gov. Cuomo banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Between state and federal government, the flavored e-cigarette variety is being particularly targeted due to it’s appealing nature to younger audiences.

There have been 380 reported cases of lung illnesses from use of e-cigarettes and 6 deaths, according to reports filed with the Center for Disease Control. These illnesses mimic pneumonia and bacterial lung infections causing inflammation and lung tissue damage. As horrific as that is, it’s the exact reason e-cigarettes were never meant to be used in the way these young people have used them.

Jordan Rothstein, who describes himself as “an ex-smoker who has been freed from the burden of tobacco,” quit smoking through pod-based vapes and e-juices. “The best way to use a Juul is as a stepping stone in the quitting process. Use Juul to transition from cigarettes, and then quit using the Juul as well, ending in zero use of nicotine and no inhalation of anything other than air,” he said.

Inspired to make the task of quitting smoking ease-free as possible, Rothstein began his own blog, the Pod Professor, a site in which he guides his readers through honest reviews of vape products.

While the particular ingredient in these vape products that is causing these issues has not been determined, the suspected culprit is vitamin E acetate, an additive in topical and consumable products that has been banned in many other countries.

Vitamin E acetate is added to vape oils to thicken the liquid and make it easier to vaporize. It can stick like a coating to the inside of a vape-users lungs, and considering health concerns it isn’t necessary.

Many companies producing e-cigarette or vape oils, including the Oregon-based vape cartridge additive maker, Mr. Extractor, have either taken vitamin E acetate out of their products or pulled products containing the additive altogether upon learning of the health risks involved.

However, even with the push to make a healthier product within the e-cigarette market itself, the government is continuing to pursue removing these products from the market. This is due in part to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet committed to regulating these products, making it difficult to trust the companies on the market.

“We must not stand by while e-cigarettes continue to go unregulated. We urge the US Food and Drug Administration to speed up the regulation of e-cigarettes and remove all unregulated products from the market,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, the American Medical Association’s president. ”We also call on the FDA to immediately ban flavors, as well as marketing practices, that enhance the appeal of e-cigarette products to youth.”

In response through the Trump administration, Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the FDA will soon be coming out with a comprehensive plan to remove many of these questionable products from the market.

While it’s exemplary that these companies and the FDA are beginning to look into making their products healthier, there needs to be greater regulation on the strength–and length–at which these products can be used.

Many products aimed at helping people quit smoking, including nicotine gum and lozenges, were at one time or another only available by prescription. To solve the issue of youth access to these harmful products, vape pens, e-cigarettes and vape oils should require a prescription to obtain. This would limit misuse of the products and set a well-regulated timeline for those using these products as a method to quit smoking.

The government push to ban certain e-cigarette related products is merely a quick solution for a much larger problem, addiction. The ultimate fix would be to take these products from the over-the-counter market and put them behind the pharmaceutical counter.