By Amanda Wheeler
Sometimes the loudest voice is not the most responsible when it comes to public health. And we can all agree that it’s important to get the facts when making a decision that will impact our health and well-being and that of our families. As Pennsylvanians discuss tobacco and e-cigarettes, we need to make more room for the stories of thousands of people like me who may have turned to vaping to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
My story is like that of so many adults in Pennsylvania who have used this harm reduction method to gradually wean themselves off cigarettes and quit smoking altogether. While the path to quitting smoking is different for everyone, it’s important for us to have an honest conversation about the importance of vaping products when it comes to providing adults with safer options.
Some people argue that banning flavored vaping products and increasing taxes will make them less appealing to young people and curb their use by adults. The truth is, this approach doesn’t work and does more to undermine public health by increasing youth smoking rates, eliminating an important harm reduction tool for adult smokers who want to quit, and fueling the illicit market. . In fact, a recent study published by the American Medical Association found that when San Francisco banned flavored vaping products, young people were twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as cities without a flavor ban.
As a mother, I share the same concerns as many parents in Pennsylvania when it comes to keeping tobacco and vaping products out of reach of young people. That’s why my organization supports strong public health and education campaigns that have reduced youth vaping nationwide by nearly 60 percent, according to the CDC’s Youth Smoking Survey. It’s proof that we don’t need to prevent adults who want to quit smoking from using these smokeless products if we take the time to discourage and prevent young people from using them.
Local bans and tax hikes also make our communities less safe by funding criminal enterprises that are more than willing to meet demand when legitimate products are harder to come by. In Massachusetts, a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping products has led to an influx of illicit products, including from a Pennsylvania-based smuggling ring.
Of course, vaping is not without risk, but studies have shown that it carries 95% less risk than cigarettes. For the majority of adult smokers who say they want to quit, vaping can offer significantly better health outcomes.
We can’t ignore the fact that millions of Americans have successfully quit smoking using a method more effective than any nicotine replacement therapy ever devised. And as responsible parents, retailers and policymakers, we must promote ways to help adult smokers in Pennsylvania make better choices while ensuring that young people never start using nicotine.
Amanda Wheeler is president of the American Vapor Manufacturers Association.