Candy cigarettes were introduced in the early 1930's, but fell out of favor with an American public increasingly concerned about the health risks of tobacco starting in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Although banned in more than a dozen countries, the production and sale of candy cigarettes remains legal in the United States. The dwindling number of producers making these products did, however, try to rebrand their confections by dropping the “cigarette” term after two national attempts to ban candy cigarettes in 1970 and 1991 as well as State level campaigns that ended with a sole ban in North Dakota. The verified concern with candy cigarettes is that they both desensitize children to the use of tobacco and essentially train them to use cigarettes. Today, candy cigarettes are not a threat to the general population, because they are not widely available, but the new phenomenon of vaping poses any equal, if not greater, risk.
So-called electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were first introduced by Chinese pharmacist and inventor Hon Lik as an alternative to tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes use a small battery to vaporize a solution. While e-cigarettes were first introduced as a “healthier” alternative to smoking tobacco and a way to wean oneself off smoking, they have developed into a global phenomenon. Not only do users “vape” “e-liquids” with nicotine, they have an near-endless variety of flavors to choose from. “Vaping” is so popular that manufacturers even offer nicotine-free “vape juices,” including some that are laced with vitamins. Given the highly diverse, fun, and discreet nature of vapes and vape products, children have taken up vaping as a pastime. Not only did the FDA and FTC already have to warn more than a dozen vape vendors for marketing their products to children in early 2018, the FDA has since had to give vape manufacturers an ultimatum. They must either deal with the vaping epidemic among young Americans or face the removal of their products from the American market.
While the safety of using vapes is highly suspect, recognizing vape liquids contain a diverse slurry of various chemicals, which have varying degrees of toxicity at any dosage, it is well established that nicotine, in any form, is a highly addictive substance. Nicotine is so addictive that its addictive nature is on par with that of heroine and cocaine. Unless someone is, therefore, already addicted to nicotine, vaping of nicotine poses a hazard. As for vapers who use nicotine-free e-liquids, the act of vaping still serves as a training exercise for smoking. Vapes both lack the negative connotation of tobacco products and offer a more pleasant experience than that of inhaling smoke of any kind. Considering the variety of available flavors, vaping is literally nothing more than simulated smoking. Coupled with nicotine, the habit of vaping makes smoking the next logical step. Although no one can say vapers will transition to tobacco use, it cannot be denied that vaping does condition people to emulate the habits of smokers and cultivates addictive traits. It is certainly a better training exercise than the consumption of candy cigarettes.
That said, vape advocates would argue that vaping is not smoking. They would, of course, be technically correct. Smoking is, however, just vaping vaporized tobacco, so the difference is minimal. What makes vaping so insidious is that it appears to be a safe practice for adults and children alike. It may be safer to inhale water-vapor, which is not the only vapor given off by e-cigarettes, than smoking tobacco, but the practice helps teach children the act of smoking and misleads them to believe their tobacco-free experiences are harmless. Quite frankly, vaping is nothing more than a cash-grab and means to renormalize the abuse of nicotine, sins the tobacco. As a public health concern, the addictive nature of vaping, even without fully understanding the other potential health risks, demands government intervention. No sane and responsible government, or People, would knowingly allow a population, particularly children, to be addicted to a drug-laced product in order to fatten the wallets of business executives and stockholders.
That said, America is a land of freedom and the use of tobacco is legal for that reason. The manufacture, sale, and use of tobacco products are, however, highly regulated to ensure consumers do truly make an informed decision before they use them. They are also heavily taxed to strongly discourage the practice and pay for the societal costs of smoking. The targeting of children is, of course, strictly forbidden in any shape or form. Although candy cigarettes were never banned, US legislators did pass bills like the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Provisions of this particular law ban “cigarettes with characterizing flavors, except menthol and tobacco.” The bill “…prohibits tobacco companies from making reduced harm claims….,” while requiring the full disclosure of all ingredients. Most importantly, it restricts the marketing and sale of tobacco to youths. As vaping essentially serves as a training, marketing tool for tobacco use and nicotine abuse, lawmakers need to mirror the same requirements for e-cigarettes. After all, nicotine-addiction via vaping is already an epidemic among young Americans.
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