Juul recently announced they would pull all their fruit flavored pods from Canada. This comes as a major setback to the country’s public health, as e-cigarettes have helped countless people transition off from smoking.
But that’s not all, as legal products become illegal, vapers will unknowingly buy harmful, illicit products instead. As Canada and other nations consider regulating or even banning e-cigarettes, perhaps this could’ve been avoided had the U.S. reacted more sensibly to the vaping outbreak.
As of summer 2019, vaping became one of the nation’s biggest concerns with advocates warning that vaping is the next “teen health outbreak.” The American Heart Association treated vaping just as bad as smoking, teens threw away e-cigarettes only to return to smoking, and even Michael Bloomberg pledged to spend over $160 million on a campaign to end teen vaping. Yet despite everyone’s best intentions to protect teen health, the reality that e-cigarettes have actually helped public health went almost completely unnoticed.
Because e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, England Public Health reports they are 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes. Not only that, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) own research shows vaping has greatly contributed to a sharp decline in underaged smoking.
Even claims by advocacy groups, like Tobacco Free California, that “fruity flavors were hooking teens” was debunked when it was found that menthol was just as popular as strawberry and mango. Yet despite all the research showing vaping was a much safer alternative, it all went up in smoke as the information ultimately fell on deaf ears.
Starting June 2019, San Francisco became the first city to ban all e-cigarettes, paving the way for others to follow suit. Michigan and New York shortly thereafter attempted to ban all flavored e-cigarettes through questionable gubernatorial authority while the state of Massachusetts was the first to enact a ban through the legislature. Even the Trump administration, after months of vacillating on the issue, earlier this month announced a ban on all flavored e-cigarette pods, adding more fuel to the fire.
Yet despite these good intentions, the bans and bad press on e-cigarettes have done more harm than good, and it’s those who need them to quit smoking who bare the burden. As legal pods are removed, the only option left for vapers will be illicit pods that contain harmful chemicals. Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s these illegal products that have caused people to get sick. Not only will this continue to make vaping more dangerous, even worse, it has caused some to turn back to smoking, which kills 480,000 Americans every year.
As if this isn’t bad enough, perhaps the most tragic aspect is the impact America’s decision has had on other nations. India, for example, imposed a national ban on all e-cigarettes last year citing American figures for their reasoning, despite not having a vaping “epidemic” in their country. When the bill to ban e-cigarettes was introduced, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman said, “The data that we have largely is derived from the U.S.’ experience.” But India isn’t the only one, as South Korea passed similar regulations citing concerns from the U.S. as well.
And so it goes, as America panicked and overregulated e-cigarettes, Canada has become the most recent country being influenced by American policy. Already as Health Minister James Aylward is looking to ban flavored vape juice, Juul has preemptively pulled back their fruity flavors from stores despite the country only having 16 vaping reported illnesses.
The company now awaits a decision from Health Canada (similar to the U.S. FDA), yet no one should be surprised if regulations follow the pattern of the U.S. as the number of Canadians that think vaping is dangerous as has doubled since last year. As 15 percent (4.6 million) of Canadians smoke, Canada is following a dangerous precedent, where legitimate devices used to reduce dependency on cigarettes are being taken away from those that need them the most.
Unfortunately for Americans, and the rest of the world, there seems to be no end in sight for smokers to breathe easy. Even more unfortunate is how America’s policy on e-cigarettes has and will continue to influence other nations’ vaping policy. As the U.S. continues to grapple with this issue, we should be reminded that smoking is a global phenomenon and the decisions we make here in the U.S. will affect the world’s 1 billion smokers looking for ways to quit.