If you know anything about vaping, you know that vaping and smoking are radically different in many ways. Smoking burns tobacco, but vaping uses electricity to turn e liquid into aerosol. All cigarettes contain tobacco and nicotine, but only some e liquids are made from tobacco, and many do not contain any nicotine at all.
Smoking causes a myriad of well-proven negative health effects, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. So far, research on e cigarette safety has not found any definitive long-term health risks.
Unfortunately, despite all of these differences, anti-smoking activists insist on treating e cigarettes and traditional cigarettes as if they were the same thing. The new FDA deeming regulations put e cigarettes and traditional cigarettes under the same regulatory umbrella, even though they are completely different products with completely different risks.
Even though they admit that more research is needed to determine the safety of e cigarettes, most regulators are happy to assume in the meantime that vaping is just as dangerous as smoking, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.
This approach to e cigarette regulation makes no sense when scientists and regulators have been urging lawmakers to make e-cigarettes more accessible as a smoking alternative for the sake of public health.
The reasons for this are many. Labeling e-cigarettes as tobacco products is not only inaccurate, but potentially dangerous. If the public believes that vaping is no different than smoking, then it could drive people away from smokeless vapor and toward cigarettes, a product known to cause more than 480,000 deaths every year in the United States alone.
Vapor is Not Smoke
Perhaps the first, and most important, distinction between vaping and smoking is the fact that cigarette smoke and e cigarette vapor are very, very different. When you smoke, you actually burn the tobacco to create a thick smoke containing carcinogenic chemicals and particulate matter.
Many of the disease-causing effects of cigarettes have to do with the chemicals created from the combustion, or burning of the cigarette.
By contrast, vaping doesn’t include any combustion or burning. Instead, e cigarettes use a battery to gently warm e liquid until it turns into an aerosol vapor. E cigarettes don’t get hot enough during normal use to cause combustion, or many of the harmful byproducts of combustion.
One study, in fact, found that “electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes” for all of the byproducts that they measured. Unfortunately, US lawmakers continue to deny the evidence and push for strict product regulation and public vaping bans in cities all across America.
E-liquids are Not Tobacco Extracts
“Tainting vaping with the negative stigma of smoking only leads to ignorance and more people rejecting smokeless alternatives in favor of continuing to smoke cigarettes.”
When you get down to the nitty-gritty of tobacco regulation, no one can say exactly how e liquids fit into the picture. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act allows the FDA to regulate products derived from tobacco, but what counts as a tobacco derivative is not entirely clear.
With the deeming regulations, the FDA essentially claims that all e-liquids count as tobacco derivatives. But does that make sense, and is that fair?
The answer is a little bit complicated. E-liquids are made from a mixture of propylene glycol (to deliver flavor), vegetable glycerin (for thickening), flavoring, and, sometimes, nicotine.
Anti-tobacco activists insist that the fact that vapor products use nicotine is enough reason to deem them as tobacco products. Many, however, disagree.
First of all, it’s important to realize that a large percentage of e juices on the market use no nicotine at all. It would be just plain nonsensical to consider them tobacco products. E cigarettes with zero percent nicotine have nothing at all in them that could be linked to cigarettes or the tobacco plant. You’d think it would be a cut-and-dry issue, but unfortunately, to the FDA, it is not.
Since announcing the deeming regulations, the FDA has received many inquiries about whether or not they are claiming tobacco control authority over nicotine-free e liquids and e cigarettes. Unfortunately, the FDA has offered only vague, dodgy responses, like: “e-liquids marketed as ‘nicotine-free’ may properly be considered tobacco products—or components or parts thereof—under certain circumstances.”
Their answer defies all common sense but, then again, we already knew that the regulations were not based on sound reasoning.
On the other side of the spectrum, a small percentage of e liquids actually are steeped in tobacco leaves, which would seem to clearly make these e juices tobacco derivatives. However, the vast majority of e-liquids are not, and never come into contact with any part of a tobacco plant. Even those e juices that contain nicotine are usually made with purified nicotine, not tobacco extracts.
Nicotine is not Tobacco
The FDA will apparently stop at nothing to claim authority over e-cigarettes, even if it means making the dubious claim that containing nicotine is enough reason to consider e cigarettes and e liquids tobacco products.
Part of the reason they do this is because they know that many people associate the health dangers of cigarettes with nicotine. In reality that is not the case. As Forbes put it neatly, nicotine “isn’t the stuff that cause serious illness and death from cancer, lung, and heart disease. Those culprits are the tar and toxic gases that are released from burning tobacco when you smoke.”
Additionally, nicotine is not exclusively found in the tobacco plant at all. Although tobacco leaves contain greater amounts of nicotine than other plants, nicotine is also found in eggplants, broccoli, and many other vegetables.
Also consider that e liquid manufacturers have begun using nicotine synthesized in the lab, cutting tobacco wholly and completely out of the e juice process. Yet, the FDA still wants to call them tobacco products.
E cigarettes are Unique
Comparing the vaping and smoking is like comparing apples and oranges, which is why it makes no sense to regulate them as if they were in the same. Certainly, e cigarettes should be regulated to some degree, but the only thing that really makes sense is to regulate vapor products as a completely separate category.
This is exactly what the petition to reject the deeming of e-cigarettes as tobacco products urges congress to do in order to “inspire innovation along with [benefiting] public health and safety.” E-cigarettes should be evaluated not as tobacco products, but in their own right, as a unique, new product.
Tainting vaping with the negative stigma of smoking only leads to ignorance and more people rejecting smokeless alternatives in favor of continuing to smoke cigarettes.
Vaping and smoking are two very different activities with very different levels of risk. The most that e cigarettes and traditional cigarettes potentially have in common is nicotine, and even that connection is tenuous at best, and easily cut out of the picture when it comes to e liquids that use synthetic nicotine or are completely nicotine-free.
The smoke cloud that comes from a cigarette has a completely different chemical makeup than a vapor cloud made by an e cigarette, and our legislation should reflect that distinction. If you reject the idea that e cigarettes are tobacco products and want to preserve Americans’ access to vapor products, you can sign the petition, get involved in your local politics, or share the word with others online. Together we can help others understand that vaping is not smoking, and win the fight for public health and common sense.