The advisory panel is currently working on finalizing a proposal that would put the fate of vaping in Florida on this year’s ballot
Ever since vaping first exploded onto the scene nearly ten years ago, legislators have wrestled with how to regulate the new form of “smoking” appropriately. Unfortunately, more often than not these officials have chosen to lump e-cigarettes into the same category as traditional combustible cigarettes. The jury is still out on precisely what the real risk of vaping is, but the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is currently moving forward on their plan to regulate vaping under the same strict rules as smoking.
Led by the CRC Commissioner, Lisa Carlton, the panel only has one more step to complete before they’re able to put the potential regulation on this year’s ballot. Carlton, who was formerly a Republican in the Florida state senate, believes that despite the lack of long-term research showing severe risks, vaping needs to be handled the same as smoking. As a result, vapers in Florida face an uphill battle if they hope to retain their vaping rights.
It seems that even with a significant lack of evidence backing her up, Ms. Carlton believes that vaping poses the same risk as traditional smoking. She is primarily concerned with second hand vaping, which she sees as the same as secondhand smoke. In a recent meeting of the Review Commission, she equated vaping and smoking when she said, “I think it’s time to clean up our restaurants, our malls, our movie theaters, so we can all breathe clean air again, which is what the 2002 constitutional amendment intended.” The only problem is the evidence used to justify the 2002 amendment was dramatically more robust than any of the research we have on vaping.
Even former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is well known in the vaping community for being extremely skeptical of vaping’s benefits, agrees that the evidence is just not there yet. “Gaps in scientific evidence do exist, and this report is being issued while these products and their patterns of use continue to change quickly. For example, the health effects and potentially harmful doses of heated and aerosolized constituents of e-cigarette liquids — including solvents, flavorants, and toxicants — are not completely understood.” Dr. Murthy also acknowledged that even less is currently known about secondhand vapor, but agrees there are a few good reasons to be optimistic that the dangers of secondhand vaping pale in comparison to the dangers of secondhand smoke. Including the lack of “sidestream” smoke and substantial differences in duration of vaping sessions.
Evidence Supporting Vaping
Given that one of the primary concerns of Ms. Carlton is the danger secondhand vapor poses to bystanders, you’d assume that there must be evidence supporting this. But in fact, one of the only peer-reviewed studies that looked exclusively at the differences between secondhand vapor and smoke found that vapor doesn’t pose any risk at all. Back in October, researchers at San Diego State University tested the air quality of over 300 households using in-home monitoring devices. When they compared the results for vaping households with those gathered in smoking and non-smoking or vaping households, they observed that the weekly mean particle distribution of the vaping households was virtually the same as found in smoke-free or vaping homes. Meanwhile, the smoking households showed massive increases in harmful substances.
This evidence only adds to the case made by the, now famous, 2015 report by Public Health England (PHE) that concluded vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. PHE is the federal health agency for England, similar to the FDA in America. Given how well respected they are, this study has become a significant talking point for anyone looking to defend the benefits of vaping. In the report, the researchers acknowledged that the exhaled vapor could potentially lead to passive exposure of nicotine to bystanders, but they also believe that it’s unlikely the direct evidence will indicate a significant risk posed by this passive exposure.
The continued insistence of legislators to treat vaping the same as smoking is not only misguided, but it’s also lazy. Given what we know from a growing mountain of peer-reviewed evidence, vaping is simply not the same as smoking, and is in fact, much safer. With that being the case, it’s absurd to try and equate vaping and smoking when it comes to regulatory policies. It can also be viewed as legislators choosing not to do their job, instead opting for the easy way out of just applying the existing tobacco regulations to vaping. This directly affects the ability of vaping to be a useful smoking cessation tool.
It limits the number of people who are willing to give vaping a shot, seeing public officials condemn e-cigarettes with the same vigor and stubbornness as combustible tobacco. Choosing to regulate the vaping industry with the same set of strict rules as tobacco also gives a distinct advantage to the Big Tobacco companies that are currently attempting to steal as much of the smokeless market share as possible. These companies are much more experienced with navigating the red tape and fees that go along with tobacco regulations. In fact, applying tobacco regulations to vaping is an excellent way to ensure that Big Tobacco overtakes the independent vaping industry. The bottom line is that we must fully understand the risks and benefits of vaping before we move to place burdensome regulations on a thriving harm reduction industry.
Do you think that it’s fair for vaping and smoking be regulated by the same set of rules? How do you think we could efficiently regulate vaping separately from smoking? Do you believe that bans like those proposed in Florida have the desired effect? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.