Letter to the editor: Better regulation key on vaping products

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The proliferation of misinformation surrounding e-cigarettes, or “vapes,” poses a significant challenge to public health. Camryn Zornes’ recent column from the Lawrence County Health Department (Think you know what’s in your vape? Think again. – 4/5/24), underscores the pressing need for enhanced education, extending even to health officials.

While both cigarettes and vapor products contain nicotine, their delivery methods differ. Studies suggest that vapor products deliver nicotine in a less harmful manner compared to cigarettes. According to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the medical community should be using vapes as part of tobacco cessation therapy. When it comes to vapor products, adopting a regulatory framework that permits vapor products in traditional adult flavors while eliminating illicit, youth-targeted vape products is essential. 

Former HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth.”

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Unfortunately, illegal disposable vape products have skyrocketed in popularity among Ohio’s youth. Manufactured by Chinese companies and marketed in candy and dessert flavors with cartoon packaging, these vapes explicitly target our youth. 

Subject to import bans and FDA scrutiny for violations, the lack of enforcement has allowed these Chinese companies to flood into our communities and schools. These products, that often bypass the regulatory process and contain undisclosed ingredients, pose a grave threat to public health, particularly among youth.  

The widespread availability of these products undermines efforts to combat youth use and jeopardizes health gains achieved through tobacco control measures.

To address this public health issue, stringent regulatory measures must be implemented to remove illegal, kid-friendly vapor products from store shelves. Simultaneously, efforts should focus on responsible access to traditional flavored vapor products for adults. By striking this balance, we can mitigate the harms associated with youth vaping, while ensuring adults have access to safer alternatives.

Steve Sydow