In many ways, e-cigarettes could be considered to be on their way to replacing traditional tobacco products - and not just in their usage, but also in the controversies that they give rise to.
As perhaps an inevitable side-effect of the growing international usage of e-cigarettes, the issue of how, and whether, they ought to be regulated has become an increasingly hot topic of debate, with various nations and institutions opting for a variety of approaches to the issue. And at the moment, many feel that the modern trend seems to be a move toward stronger regulation.
A prominent element of this debate relates to the availability of e-cigarette products to teenagers and youth. Whilst e-cigarettes are often cited as a popular means of helping tobacco smokers shake their habit, concerns have recently arisen that, among the youth, they could have the opposite effect, serving as a gateway to tobacco.
Only a few weeks ago, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams responded to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse confirming that vaping among teenagers has risen dramatically over the last year, citing it as “a cause for great concern”.
In a public health advisory, Adams called on states and territories to implement stronger e-cigarette regulations, including an indoor ban, higher taxation on the products, and limited availability to younger customers.
And in some places across the globe, it would seem that sentiments like Adams’ are being taken to heart. In Massachusetts, for instance, the city of Somerville’s board of health voted in mid-December to ban the sale of electronic and menthol cigarettes in establishments open to youth.
The restrictions, which will take effect in April 2019, are among the first in the state, and will restrict the sale of such products to adult-only, 21-and-up establishments and retailers. Mayor Joseph Curtatone directly cited Surgeon General Adams’ advisory, as well as general concerns about the impact of health upon the youth, as primary reasons for these new restrictions.
The impact of the controversy has also been felt in other nations - most recently, in New Zealand, where Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa recently announced new regulations, likely to be implemented in 2020, that would see e-cigarette products banned from such environments as bars, restaurants and workplaces, in much the same manner as traditional tobacco products. These restrictions would also limit the manner in which these products can be displayed and advertised.
“Vaping is a significantly less harmful alternative to smoking and it has been used as an effective tool to quit smoking. However, it is not completely risk free and that’s why we need to make it as safe as possible and protect young people from taking it up” Salesa said.
It seems, perhaps, somewhat inevitable that the growing usage of e-cigarettes will give rise to increased controversy around the related products, justified or otherwise - and, as a result, growing calls for regulation. Perhaps it is too early to say whether this will, in the long term, have a permanent impact on e-cigarette regulation, or is merely a passing fad as e-cigarettes find their place in the world market; but it is clear that e-smokers will need to be prepared, at least for the next few months, for some potentially drastic shifts in the regulations applied to the products they love.