Should vaping products be available by prescription only?


Fact Box

  • NEJM study shows 18% abstinence rate with e-cigarettes [1].
  • CDC reports 1 in 4 high school and 1 in 10 middle school students use vaping products [2].
  • NPR-Yale Medical Study says from 2001-2010, one-third of FDA approved prescriptions had safety issues [3].
  • Public Health England maintains that vaping is 95% safer than traditional cigarettes [4].

Sara (No)

In recent years e-cigarettes have come into the forefront of societal debate. Underage usage of vaping devices is increasing [1]. Lack of regulations has caused concern for their safety. Public Health England reports that vaping is 95% safer than combustion cigarettes [2]. Nicotine is addictive, but it does not increase the risk of serious health problems. Nevertheless, cities such as San Francisco are banning vaping devices until they are FDA approved. 

One idea to rein in the high usage of vaping products is for the FDA to regulate vaping as a prescription-only for smokers. Some might argue that this would reduce teenage usage and control the quality of the products. But, the FDA has failed the public various times with pharmaceutical drugs in today’s market. One-third of new drugs approved by the FDA have had safety issues, and they approve drugs faster than their European counterparts [3]. Pharmaceutical agencies lobby and push their products, staining the integrity of the FDA. It is a misconception to think government protocols would only improve the quality of vaping products and safeguard underage use. 

A better choice is removing the sale of online vaping products until there is a better system in place to verify age. Enforce the age requirement (18/21) and severely penalize underage sales. Companies like JUUL have contributed 30 million dollars for independent research and educational purposes. Educating the public is crucial. When all is said and done, it is the parents’ responsibility to communicate with their children about vaping products.  

Louis (Yes)

Since their inception, electronic smoking devices such as vapes, have been heavily marketed as a “healthy” option to cigarettes [1]. Smoking was in decline before the advent of vaping [2] due, in part, to more awareness of the dangers of smoking, cultural changes, and limited marketing to children. Smokers flock in droves to vaping, which has none of these restrictions (yet). Vaping has effectively undone the roadblocks put in place by the smoking industry after the class action suits. 

Vaping companies play a shell game with the public by insisting the purpose is to help smokers who want to quit, yet all the while targeting kids with child-friendly flavors [3] and non-smokers with pseudo-healthy vitamin additives, and click-bait bells and whistles on vaping devices. These marketing techniques distract from the health risks of vaping and impedes the assessment of the long-term health effects of nicotine and additive aerosols.

If vaping is meant to help tobacco smokers quit smoking, then vaping should be only allowed as a prescription to those who have a proven smoking addiction. Requiring a prescription would allow for robust ways to collect data on the effects of vaping and provide oversight to devices and fluids manufacture. It would also severely limit vaping by kids and the slick marketing campaigns to that age group. The industry should stick with its raison d’être and allow vaping products to be regulated by prescription; but in this free-for-all economy, it may turn out that greed is even more addictive than nicotine.

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