The Trump Administration’s concern for the recent vaping craze is understandable and its plan to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes is well-intentioned, but this action could end up inflicting far more harm than good. I will readily admit that frequent e-cigarette use ultimately has its fair share of negative effects, the least of which being addiction, if nothing else. But a massive ban of these products fails to take several points into consideration:
1. An e-cig ban would not target the main culprit of recent illnesses and deaths.
The CDC recently reported that they believe the vast majority of vaping-related can be attributed to the use of unregulated THC oils with e-cigs, not the products themselves. If this is the case, a wholesale ban of vaping products would completely fail to achieve its purpose. Such a move would eliminate the vessel rather than the substance inflicting the actual harm.
2. We should not get rid of a less-harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes.
While the actual effects of vaping are still being investigated, what is quite clear is that at worst, e-cigs present a far less-deadly alternative to analog cigarettes. As of right now, just over a dozen individuals within the United States have died due to vaping-related complications. No doubt these circumstances are cause for alarm, but the casualties from e-cigs pale in comparison to the CDC’s reported 480,000 annual deaths related to smoking standard cigarettes. With this in mind, it is clear that not only does a vaping ban target the wrong culprit, it also targets a practice that can have drastically beneficial results by getting individuals to turn from far more harmful forms of smoking.
3. A vaping ban would harm countless small businesses.
Andrew Van Dam of the Washington Post describes how small vape stores comprise the fastest growing industry among retail businesses in the United States. Most of these shops are run by a total of less than ten workers, and the growing number of them have been thriving over the past decade. The piece illustrates how vape shops make up nearly two percent of area business in some regions. Cracking down on e-cigs would undoubtedly deal a crushing blow to these organizations in a move that could even cause rippling effects throughout these local economies.
4. An e-cig prohibition infringes on personal liberty.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the conversation that has been disregarded in this conversation is the importance of allowing individual citizens to make their own personal decisions. Even if our worst fears about vaping are confirmed, the biggest question we must ask is whether government ought to have the authority to dictate what its citizens can and cannot put in their bodies. In making these types of decisions we must remember that the role of government is not to ensure that we live long, healthy lives, but rather to uphold our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. This isn’t to say that every harmful endeavor should be legalized. But when addressing the issue of vaping, we must consider whether a massive crackdown sets a precedent that alters the norms of our republic.
The recent trends of mass e-cig use should not be ignored. However, taking such quick and drastic measures are reckless and lack foresight. I would urge any leaders contemplating a vaping ban to consider the data we have available, wait for more research to be conducted, and think of the long-term consequences of such actions. Most importantly, the thought of expanding the role of government in regulating the lives of everyday Americans must be approached with extreme caution.