What Trump's proposed ban on flavoured vaping products should mean for Canadians

Why the White House's stance on e-cigarettes is misguided

At least 805 vaping-related illnesses and 12 deaths have been reported in the US.
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I still remember when a big vape cloud descended over my high school. The nicotine vaping trend was everywhere: in bathrooms, on walks home, and of course, all over social media. 
 
In hindsight, the huge spike in vaping among adolescents seems inevitable. It was fun. All you had to do was take a big puff of something sweet to get a nice, tingly head rush. With the now-outdated big box vapes, you could even do tricks like blowing rings of smoke. 
 
Many teens started vaping with innocent enough intentions—just one or two puffs at a party. There wasn’t any proof of known health risks at the time, and at least we weren’t smoking cigarettes like generations before us did. 
 
But only a few years later, the hype around vaping has exploded. Currently, at least 805 vaping-related illnesses and 12 deaths have been reported in the US. A teen in London, Ontario is recovering from a near-fatal vaping-related illness
 
Everyone who’s inhaled flavoured nicotine clouds is being urged by cross-country health associations to put their e-cigarettes down. 
 
In the U.S., the Trump administration and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are preparing to ban all flavoured e-cigarette products other than those simulating tobacco flavours. This policy is meant to decrease the amount of youths using vapes for fun while still enabling adults to use them as tools to quit smoking. 
 
Taken at face value, this ban makes sense. However, in my view, a deeper look reveals that it will likely only increase the harm vaping does. 
 
One major point of misinformation in this crisis results from the use of “e-cig” and “vape” as blanket terms. This typically leads to the failure to differentiate between nicotine vapes and their THC counterparts. 
 
So far, the most likely cause of frequent vapers’ lung damage is vitamin E acetate, an oil used to cut black-market THC cartridges. The acetate cools down once inhaled, turning from a vapour back into an oil and coating your lungs. This causes the cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain that characterizes these cases, similar to pneumonia.
 
Many of those with reported lung injuries said they vaped THC oil, while some claimed they only vaped nicotine. However, marijuana is still illegal in most states. Those who didn’t report using THC could be lying to protect themselves. Either way, investigations have yet to identify any harmful compounds in nicotine juices that could be causing some illnesses and deaths, while the danger of vitamin E acetate in THC oil has been identified. 
 
This means that Trump banning flavoured nicotine products is like banning planes because the Hindenburg zeppelin exploded. It doesn’t make anybody safer. On the contrary, banning these products will only increase the illegal black-market sales and unregulated mixing that caused this crisis in the first place. 
 
Beyond that, the fearmongering and misinformation now surrounding vapes might even push nicotine addicts back toward cigarettes—including youth.
 
Since cigarettes remain legal, the move seems even more nonsensical. Instead of banning these products, states should consider legalizing marijuana and regulating THC vapes. This would keep harmful additives out of the oils and out of people’s lungs, while at the same allowing them to profit off the sales. Research and regulations, not bans, make people safer.
 
Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of a federal election, but e-cigarette use is not top of mind for Canadians or party leaders right now. That said, all Canadian party leaders agree adolescents should be prevented from vaping, while none are on record supporting an outright ban. They instead choose to focus on better research around the devices before jumping to any conclusions.
 
Considering these facts, there’s no need to panic if you currently vape nicotine or have done it in the past. While that we don’t know much yet about the long-term effects of using the devices, there’s still a high probability that it’s safer than smoking cigarettes. But of course, abstaining from vaping is the best way to ensure you won’t be harmed by it. 
 
In general, it’s best to stay informed about what you’re putting into your body. Don’t inhale anything if you don’t know what it is.
 
However, if the uncertainty surrounding vaping has still got you scared, it might be time to re-evaluate your need for nicotine.
 
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