Another Beacon of Hope for Vapers?
The UK has long been viewed as a beacon of hope for former smokers who vape. Now we can add New Zealand to the ranks of countries that have adopted a rational and humane view of vaping.
Unlike the US, where what has been framed as a teen vaping epidemic is being used to deny e-cig access to adults, the UK's National Health Service is famous for actively promotes vaping as an alternative to cigarettes.
As a single payer system, the NHS has plenty of skin in the game. Health modalities they deem to be ineffective, inefficient or overpriced are promptly dismissed. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy have all been ruthlessly slashed by the NHS.
Vaping remains in the good graces of UK bean counters, and they attribute their superior rates of smoking cessation to this policy. It is also worth noting that despite promoting vaping, the UK has lower rates of teen vaping than the US.
New Zealand is another country that has decided not to punish marginalized groups with strict e-cig laws. Vaping "could disrupt the significant inequities that are present" in the demographic makeup of the smoking population, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health mission statement on vaping.
They are referring to the elephant in the room, poor and marginalized groups are much more likely to vape and smoke. As the wealthy have largely abandoned smoking, they are much more willing to suppress any use of nicotine and view vaping as an alien and disreputable activity.
Compare how vaping is treated to the way alcohol is portrayed in the media and by politicians. Wealthy and educated Americans drink more than any other group, and this explains why there is no massive outcry about the scourge of alcohol. A total of 88,000 US adults die prematurely due to alcohol annually.
The CDC reports that each year 4,300 US teens are killed and 100,000 plus are sent to the ER due to the scourge of underage drinking. I am not advocating prohibition. My question is this: If teen vaping is considered an epidemic, then what should alcohol be classified as?
New Zealand has adopted a moderate course that promotes vaping as an alternative to smoking, while not encouraging ecig use among non-smokers and minors.
Total Abstinence and Prohibition?
Critics of vaping have buried their heads in the sand, and ignore the New England Journal of Medicine study where vaping crushed nicotine replacement therapy. Instead, they continue to support nicotine replacement and view total nicotine abstinence as the inviolable gold standard.
How would a zealot who promoted total abstinence and prohibition as the solution to all risky teen behaviors be viewed by the San Francisco board of supervisors, who have adopted this very approach regarding vaping.
In the view of the total abstinence crowd, it did not matter that vaping proved twice as effective as nicotine replacement. Instead, they opted to fixate on the fact that a greater percentage of the successful nicotine replacement users were entirely nicotine free one year later. There are two glaring holes in this argument.
The first is that nearly twice as many nicotine replacement users were still smoking when compared to the vaping group. The second is that an entire structure and tradition of counseling, titration, tapering and quitting has been erected around nicotine replacement therapy.
It is up to US vaping companies and vape shops to work around FDA and CDC bylaws and promote tapering off of nicotine without promoting e-cigs as a smoking cessation tool.
The difficulty of this balancing act exposes the glaring structural differences between the diffuse vaping industry and the symbiotic relationship between big pharma and medical industry. In the US, it is difficult to envision regulators or politicians lending any support to vaping and promoting a codified track to zero nicotine vaping.
New Zealand Pushes Vaping While San Francisco Burns (Cigarettes)
San Francisco’s e-cig ban betrayed a tradition of humane treatment of the disenfranchised, marginalized and impoverished. While viewed as a bastion of LGBTQ+ rights, San Francisco is punishing a group that vapes and smokes at a higher rate than any other.
San Francisco operates at the leading edge of harm reduction policies when dealing with the over 24,000 IV drug users who call the city home. They hand out 4.5 million needles annually and are supporting a bill that would establish safe injection sites. Yet this same leadership seems eager to funnel vapers back onto combustible cigarettes.
The San Francisco e-cig ban punishes marginalized residents who lack the time, mobility or financial wherewithal to obtain vaping supplies outside of city limits. Ironic, considering the city is viewed as providing superior benefits to their enormous homeless population.
New Zealand has chosen to take a more nuanced view of vaping. Lawmakers in the US should take note.
New Zealand Promotes Vaping
Previously, we examined the varied vapin policies of the US, Australia and UK. Left out of this discussion was New Zealand. They have adopted a moderate middle ground. It is worth examining their Health Ministry’s Vaping Facts website. It gives a relatively fair shake to the embattled vaping industry, debunking myths that are viewed as inviolable facts by US anti-vapers, and urging non-smokers to steer clear of electronic cigarettes.
- The best thing you can do for your health is be smoke free and vape free.
- Vaping is not for children or young people.
- Vaping can help some people quit smoking.
- Vaping is not harmless but it is much less harmful than smoking.
- Vaping is not for non-smokers.
This stance is simple, and mirrors statements made by former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who said it would be a net benefit if every smoker switched to vaping.
The New Zealand health page features a quiz, and a resource page titled Tips for Success. None of this would be remotely permissible in the United States. There is also an impressive list of organizations that support this message. Here is a collage of screen grabs from the New Zealand Vaping Facts Page.
New Zealand versus United States
It is worth visiting the New Zealand Health Ministry page. It is a stark reminder of how far into the weeds that activists have pulled the vaping debate in the US.
In the land of the free and home of the brave, politicians are obsessed with banning the flavors that adults prefer, ignorant of the fact that retro ejuice packaging and flavors target adults. It is no accident that vape juice companies ape the style and flavors of candies and cereals that peaked in popularity during the Reagan-era.
All the while, anti-vapers ignore the fact that the staidly packaged Juul Mint, a menthol derivative, is the preferred flavor and device of minors. The FDA is gradually catching on, threatening a Juul and vape pod ban. Politicians, who don't know what salt nic is, continue to churn out legislation like the SAFE Kids Act.
What will it take to convince ignorant politicians and lobbyists like the Orwellian-titled Truth Initiaitve that it is Gen Xers and Millennials ex-smokers who are buying vape juices that mimic the flavors of their childhood.
Today's youth could care less about what was trendy in 1987. It is always worth pointing out that Millennial does not equal minor, and the recent reduction in smoking rates does not cover a generational group that ranges between 25 and 39 years of age.