Recently, a significant number of 18 to 24-year-olds have been hospitalized for mysterious lung illnesses related to e-cigarettes, and 12 have died so far. As a response, public opinion has shifted to a negative view of vaping, which was once viewed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Public officials are also pushing for restrictions and even outright bans of these devices. San Francisco has already enacted such a measure, and other cities are considering following this path as well. There are even reports of former vape users switching to traditional cigarettes. So should these deadly devices be banned? Moreover, are people considering banning these devices before they ban cigarettes, which kill nearly half a million people each year?
Neither of these products should be banned. This moral panic resembles the hysteria our country experienced at the height of the war on drugs, which saw a fearful population calling for big government to eliminate drugs without considering the consequences. What resulted from that era should never happen again: increased violence in inner cities, an explosion of the illegal market and overcrowded prisons that burdened taxpayers and the families of thousands of men of color. Surprisingly, it’s some of the same progressive voices that criticize the war on drugs who are at the forefront of the proposed vaping ban (think San Francisco).
With e-cigarettes and Juuls, there is no doubt an illegal and even more unsafe market would be created because the ingredients are easy to order online. Due to vaping’s popularity, there will be an immense demand for illegal copy cats. History has repeatedly shown that prohibition is rarely the best course of action. Secondly, the whole scare is misguided. Why is there this much panic over 12 people dying in total from vaping when close to half a million die every year from traditional cigarettes? Clearly, big tobacco is making the most of the scare. Also, it is important to consider that a good chunk of these illnesses come not from legitimate vape products but from counterfeit THC cartridges, which are crudely made compared to their counterparts in states with legal marijuana. Lastly, the government doesn’t deserve the right to tell adults what they can and can’t put in their bodies, be it marijuana, alcohol or any type of cigarette, traditional or electric.
If there are genuinely unsafe chemicals in vape products that are creating the phenomenon we hear about on the news, of course, there should be some regulation. But this shouldn’t be an excuse to control people’s behavior based on hysteria.
Jonathan Buckley is a sophomore majoring in political science.
Featured image source: www.flickr.com, @vaping360