The country has begun its recovery efforts from the coronavirus pandemic, and we are attempting to get back to normal, catching up on those things we missed while the world stopped to deal with the threat. While there has been promising and positive research released in the last few months related to vaping and vapor products, much of it seems to have gotten lost in the mix as news outlets almost exclusively covered the pandemic, rightfully so. Now, however, as the executive director of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association, I believe the public should have this latest information.
Tainted THC contributed to vaping deaths
First came the news that tobacco or non-nicotine vaping products were not responsible for a string of hospitalizations and deaths, as originally publicized — instead, the primary cause was tainted THC in illegal marijuana vaping products. The misinformation was an unfortunate blow to the e-cigarette and vaping industry, and we are still working to correct the image of vapor products.
Second, two recent studies show positive trends in relation to teen smoking — the rate of teenagers smoking cigarettes has fallen dramatically, and those who have tried tobacco vaping products do not progress to smoking cigarettes. The best news is that the smoking rate of 12th graders fell by an unprecedented 35% among lifetime users in 2019 compared to 2014, and we are also very encouraged by the confirmation that using vapor products does not typically lead to smoking traditional tobacco products. Many of our association members–myself included–are former cigarette smokers who have kicked the habit completely by responsibly using vapor products.
In one of these studies, researchers in the UK analyzed the results of the 2014-2017 U.S. National Youth Tobacco Survey and concluded that less than 1% of U.S. adolescents who use e-cigarettes first became established cigarette smokers. Additionally, the annual “Monitoring the Future” study showed that teen smoking rates continue to fall dramatically from their highs in the 1990s.
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Third, banning flavors or restricting the sale of e-cigarettes may have an overall negative effect, as many users may simply return to smoking traditional tobacco products. At the Tennessee Smoke Free Association, we already knew this. Our member businesses focus on tobacco harm reduction through the use of personal vaporizers, and we work daily to dispel the myths surrounding these products.
E-cigarettes are only for adults
We believe regulations are important, and it is our responsibility to promote these products responsibly and only to adults. We wholeheartedly supported Tobacco 21, the initiative to raise the minimum legal age to purchase these products and traditional cigarettes. We do not market to teens or initiate vape use to non-smokers. Vapor products are only for adult smokers who are looking to make a positive change in their lives by kicking the habit of smoking cigarettes — period.
Vaping saves lives
There is no doubt in my mind that vaping has saved my life. I was a heavy smoker for many years before switching to safer vaping products. This is why I find the continued misinformation around vaping so alarming: because there are 34 million tobacco smokers in this country and hundreds of thousands dying each year from smoking-related illnesses.
The vaping industry will continue to educate consumers and fight to ensure that these products, which have improved the lives of 13 million American vapers, remain on the market to help future generations of smokers stop smoking cigarettes. Our association’s members are part of your communities. We are small business owners, and we want to work together to reduce the number of Tennesseans who are smoking deadly tobacco products and make everyone in our state healthier and happier.
Dimitris Agrafiotis is executive director of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association.
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