With cities and states around the country considering how to regulate e-cigarettes, the American Vaping Association is making its case for the devices as a healthier alternative to tobacco products. But with momentum building for regulation, it’s an uphill fight.
vape (vāp) v., to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.
“Vape” may be Oxford Dictionaries’ 2014 Word of the Year, but its current popularity in the language isn’t shielding vaping from a wave of legislative activity to limit the use of e-cigarettes in public places. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule to extend its tobacco regulatory authority to include e-cigarettes, but in the meantime, state and local lawmakers are introducing measures to limit the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products at a high rate [PDF].
The American Vaping Association is working to counter that trend. Most recently, the group spoke out last week against proposed legislation in Madison, Wisconsin, where the city council is considering whether to add e-cigarettes to its existing smoking ban.
“It is especially cruel to ban vaping in a city known for its frigid temperatures. For many smokers, the ability to stay out of the cold acts as a powerful incentive to give up cigarettes and switch to vaping,” AVA President Gregory Conley said in a statement. “This ordinance would senselessly ban vaping in all of Madison’s seven dedicated vape shops. … Many bars and restaurants in Madison welcome vaping, while others do not. In light of the complete absence of evidence showing harm from e-cigarette vapor, Madison should continue to allow businesses to set their own policies.”
AVA is finding it to be a tough battle, though. In the last few weeks, e-cigarette ordinances either went into effect or are advancing quickly in Santa Monica, California; Baltimore; Minneapolis; Buffalo, New York; and Hawaii. Concern over the rise in teen vapers hasn’t helped.
The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society recently conceded that the devices may be useful as a last-ditch effort to quit smoking, but the groups haven’t readily embraced the e-cigarette alternative, saying vaping can lead to traditional cigarette use.
Last week, AVA joined in celebrating ACA’s annual Great American Smokeout event, a day in which smokers are encouraged to stop smoking for 24 hours. In a statement, Conley said the vaping industry and ACS “share the same goal—reducing and eliminating smoking.” But his call for ACS to “celebrate and congratulate the millions of ex-smokers who have successfully transitioned away from smoking thanks to vaping” went unanswered. Instead, the ACS Cancer Action Network urged FDA regulation of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
“It’s alarming that more than 50 years after the U.S. Surgeon General first warned about the hazards of smoking, nearly one in four high school students in America use tobacco, one in eight high schoolers regularly use two or more tobacco products, and e-cigarettes continue to quickly gain popularity,” the Cancer Action Network said in a statement. “Perhaps most concerning is that the FDA currently regulates only cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, while the tobacco industry aggressively markets numerous unregulated tobacco products such as cigars, cigarillos, snus, and e-cigarettes to teens.”