In a controversial move, San Francisco recently became the first (and currently only) major US city to ban vaping & e-cigarettes; a stark contrast to current events happening in the UK where hospitals are now opening e-cigarette stores. When comparing these two dissimilar scenarios, the question of “Should governments ban or promote vaping?” arises, unfortunately, the answer isn’t so cut and dried.
No matter how a government tackles smoking policies, there will be stakeholders who are negatively affected. For example, in the US, the production of flavoured e-liquids is prohibited in a plan to try and reduce their teenage vaping epidemic. If this policy was to be adopted in the UK, hard-working e-liquid distributors would soon find themselves out of business whilst simultaneously making the life of any UK based vaper increasingly duller. This is already happening with JUUL in the US, as they can no longer create flavoured JUUL pods for their vaping devices, hampering their profitability.
Conversely, in the UK, there have been campaigns to push the message of “Stop Smoking” by promoting the use of e-cigarettes, the biggest advocate of this being Public Health England. However, many critics of this are worried that this will increase the number of non-smokers that take up vaping full-time. This is a very logical concern as with most things, promotion of anything leads to an increase in usage. However, whilst risky, this is a risk Public Health England are willing to take. As mentioned earlier, this is a very different approach to San Francisco; which makes me wonder, are San Francisco taking a step in the wrong direction?
Whilst this is only a temporary ban in San Francisco, things could get very difficult if this turns into a permanent ban. Take Australia as a shining example of how a vaping ban can easily backfire, as they banned all e-liquid that contains nicotine as it is classed as a “poison”. As a result of this ban, the black market for Nicotine filled e-liquids is so strong in Australia that many vapers weren’t even aware that their nicotine filled e-liquids were illegal, per a vice report. This could be down to how the Australian government spread the message of this ban, but what if it was down to the fact that these banned e-liquids are so engrained in a smoker’s modern-day life that they will always find a way to access it? If this was the case then I’m sure we would see similar black markets in San Francisco, just like the prohibition of alcohol that began in the US during the 1920s. It creates an eery side by side comparison that shows the government trying to take away a substance that for some, is a nice tasting, vapor fuelled pass time, or for others, a medicine to stop smoking tobacco.
Regardless of these arguments, my instinctive thought when hearing about this ban was that vapers will just choose to smoke something legal…and more dangerous. Cigarettes and Marijuana are both legal in San Francisco, both of which are smoked via combustion a majority of the time. Combustion that produces harmful Carbon Dioxide unlike vaping, which is harmful to both our health and the health of our planet. In fact, according to an experiment from Tobacco Control, cigarette smoke produces 10 times more air pollution than diesel car exhausts. So not only is San Francisco banning vaping, but they’re also turning vapers towards a more dangerous smoking product than vaping is by making them convert to cigarettes.
Honestly, I’ve been trying to think of any legitimate reasons as to why this ban would be a good idea, but I am struggling. Even after some extensive research into this, the only positive is that it will supposedly stop the “epidemic” the US is currently facing with teen vapers, but what if the vaping epidemic turns into a smoking epidemic due to the ban of vaping, or like mentioned earlier, it spawns a thriving black market for more than just e-liquids. If this were to happen, then it would be even more dangerous as the products on the black market cannot be regulated and kept safe to the public. It is the preposterous thought process of banning vaping but allowing smoking that makes this so absurd to me. Picture this; in an alternate universe somewhere, an ingredient in traditional Coca-Cola has been named as a cause of several cancers, none of it’s lighter products are, just Coca-Cola. What if the government's action in this timeline was to ban diet Coca-Cola instead and continue to profit from Coca-Cola? I know, it sounds ridiculous, yet this is effectively what the San Francisco government has done in terms of vaping. The bottom line is this: Why would you ban vaping and not smoking? It just does not make sense to me, and that is why (in my opinion) San Francisco is taking a step in the wrong direction.