April 2016

How to Solve the Vaping Regulatory Mess in a Few Short Rules

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By Julie Selesnick

To say I solved vaping might be a tiny-bit of an exaggeration. In a perfect world, where vaping is embraced as the premier method of smoking cessation, and the mutual societal goal is to make it even better and even safer than it already is, there are very few federal rules and regulations that would be necessary to properly regulate the industry. Understanding vaping is 95% safer than smoking and is the cause of the unprecedented decline in the smoking rate occurring in the United States and worldwide, the following regulations would be more than sufficient to help people who want to quit smoking by vaping.

Restrictive Regulations
Some restrictive regulations are inevitable, and I am one of the vapers who would be ok with moderate regulations aimed at avoiding or limiting the most dangerous vapingrelated situations. This includes:

  1. Requiring the caps on e-liquid bottles to be childproof. This is a no-brainer and I cannot fathom any argument against it.
  2. Require e-liquid bottles to display the ingredients and carry a nicotine warning label. It is dangerous to ingest liquid nicotine, and people should know that, especially so they keep their e-liquids away from children and pets. People should also have access to the ingredient list for any e-juice they are thinking of purchasing, so an informed decision can be made of what products to purchase.
  3. Ban the use of Diacetyl in e-liquids. Do I think anyone is going to vape enough diacetyl containing e-liquid to contract “popcorn lung”? No, I don’t. However, diacetyl is a carcinogen, and there is absolutely no need to ingest it. I know this might upset some vapers, but there are so many choices; why vape something that could lead to a deadly disease when it’s not necessary. I feel the same about formaldehyde and any other carcinogens or additives that cause additional health risks.
  4. Do something to regulate the batteries used in mechanical mods, box mods, and electronic cigarettes to minimize explosions. We cannot regulate away user error, but we can implement some reasonable standards that will ensure only high quality batteries that have been quality checked are used in devices sold to the vaping public.
  5. Establish a reasonable review process for new products. Perhaps the federal government could work with an organization like AEMSA to help all of the current e-liquid makers and future e-liquid manufacturers adhere to a set of standards and obtain certification. This should be done with an eye to preserving small business and helping those whose products do not meet the standards get into compliance.

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Positive Regulations
I also believe there should be positive, pro-vaping regulation. Given the research to date both on the comparative safety of e-cigarettes to traditional cigarettes, and the unprecedented success people have seen by using vaping as a smoking cessation device, it might be appropriate to include federal legislation such as:

  1. Taking the regulation of e-cigarettes out of the tobacco realm and into the same regulatory realm as other smoking cessation devices. This is something the pharmaceutical lobby will resist, a lobby that is hostile to the e-cigarette industry as a whole. The New York times reported last year that the makers of Nicorette gum, GlaxoSmithKline, and the manufacturers of nicotine patches, Johnson & Johnson, lead the strong opposition against e-cigarettes. The evidence, however, supports this, and the public health community and our elected officials need to be on the side of the people, not the side of the lobbyists.
  2. Set a federal safety standard that, if met, allows insurance coverage for e-cigarettes to assist those who wish to quit smoking. This is the law in Great Britain as of January 2016, and it is the strongest way government can help people who have been unsuccessful in the past to quit smoking.
  3. Fund a system devoted to the funding of research to increase vaping safety, instead of funding studies looking for ghosts to debunk it as a means of smoking cessation. Imagine what we could do if we actually had grants available to make e-liquids and hardware safer.

There You Have It
That’s it. Leave other rules to the states, who should be instructed (and have federal funding tied to) legislating e-cigarettes in a manner consistent with what they actually are: a legitimate nicotine replacement therapy option and the preferred method of smoking cessation for people who have failed in the past.

Yes, it will be annoying if your state or municipality rules that you cannot vape inside of your favorite restaurant, but once there is a federal regulation declaring vapor products separate from tobacco, restaurants will have a strong argument that they should have the option of including a vaping section if they wish. More importantly, if federal health policy on vaping is made around the concept that vaping is the most effective technology yet introduced in the war against smoking, instead of treating it like a tobacco product, then the states will take the cue and make regulations accordingly.

Before any of these common sense rules and regulations can come to fruition, the conversation needs a fundamental change. Instead of electronic cigarettes being considered counter-culture addictions like regular cigarettes, vaping advocacy must focus on changing the public perception of vaping. The public has to be made to understand how much safer vaping is than smoking, and how much more effective it is in helping potential quitters than any other smoking cessation device available to the smoking population. When we get there, we can easily solve the issues surrounding vaping regulation, and make everybody happy. Until that day comes, Keep Calm and Vape On.