Saving Lives with New Smoking and Vaping Laws
In this age of heated political divisions, it seems that both sides agree on one topic: the use of vaping and tobacco products among young people.
On December 19, 2019, the U.S. Congress passed a federal bill that would make it illegal for people under the age of twenty-one to purchase tobacco and vaping products. President Donald Trump is expected to sign this bill into law and it will probably go into effect in 2020. This proposed federal law follows the lead of a number of U.S. states who have raised the minimum age of using tobacco and vape products to twenty-one.
What Is Vaping?
Vaping takes its name from the vapor produced by heating liquid with small electronic devices (sometimes called vapes, e-cigarettes, or e-cigs). Users inhale this vapor.
Some vaping advocates say that inhaling this vapor is a safer alternative to cigarettes. Others say that vaping is just as dangerous as using traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes. Like cigarettes, the heated liquid in vapes contains nicotine and various chemicals.
Flavors and scents are also added to the vaping liquid. Critics say manufacturers are deliberately choosing flavors and scents to appeal to the young.
What Are Some Statistics About Vaping?
Indeed, vaping has been very popular with young people. So many more college students vaped from 2017 to 2018 that it marked the highest increase of the use of a particular substance in the history of the annual Monitoring the Future survey. The study also found that students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades also showed dramatic increases in vaping for this time period.
Other vaping-related statistics are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 2,500 U.S. residents were hospitalized from June through December 2019 with what it calls e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).
Since vaping is such a new practice, medical professionals aren’t exactly sure how vaping contributes to health conditions. Some people reporting problems after vaping had pre-existing health conditions before they began vaping, some apparently used black market (illegally purchased) equipment or chemicals, and some may have vaped drugs such as THC, which often includes an additive known as vitamin E acetate that may be contributing to vaping-related illnesses.
Vaping often involves unknown materials and devices. We don’t know the long-term effects of inhaling vape products. People are not aware of what they’re doing to their bodies in the present, and they don’t have information about how these practices will affect them in the future. Vaping and using other drugs may be especially dangerous for young people whose brains and bodies are still growing and developing.
What Are Some Statistics About Tobacco Use?
On the other hand, we know that using cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco IS dangerous. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking contributes to 480,000 deaths in the United States every year. That’s almost half a million people, or 1,300 people every day. This number includes the 41,000 people who die from secondhand smoke exposure.
Cigarette use often starts young. A 2014 report of the U.S. surgeon general noted that “[m]ost first use of cigarettes occurs by 18 years of age (87%), with nearly all first use by 26 years of age (98%).” If this use turns into a habit and addiction, it can lead to severe health consequences. The report added that if smoking trends continue, “5.6 million children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking.”
Whether people use nicotine through vaping, smoking, or other means, it’s an extremely addictive substance. People who smoke receive a hit of dopamine every time they puff on a cigarette. If they smoke a pack of cigarettes every day, they may be receiving hundreds of hits of dopamine, training the brain and the body to crave nicotine for the sensations it creates.
What Will the Ban on Tobacco and Vaping Products Do?
Legislators hope that banning vaping and tobacco products for people under the age of twenty-one will keep the products from young hands and prevent an addiction to nicotine. In addition, smoking often accompanies other addictions, such as alcohol use disorder. If people don’t smoke, they may find it easier to avoid using drugs or alcohol, or they may find it easier to stop using them.
Smoking and vaping cause harm, no matter how old you are. Not allowing young people to start such practices may help them experience a lifetime of better overall health.
- finance.yahoo.com – Congress passes bill raising minimum tobacco and vape smoking age to 21
- tobaccofreekids.org – U.S. State and Local Issues: Raising the Tobacco Age to 21
- monitoringthefuture.org – Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug Use 1975-2018. 2018 Volume 2: College Students & Adults Ages 19-60
- cdc.gov – Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products
- fda.gov – Lung Illnesses Associated with Use of Vaping Products
- cdc.gov – Fast Facts: Diseases and Death
- hhs.gov – The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress
- teens.drugabuse.gov – Why Is Nicotine So Addictive?