Vaping Flavors Vital to Help Adults Quit Smoking
West Virginians value freedom; our state motto “Montani Semper Liberi,” or “Mountaineers are Always Free,” sums up our Appalachian individualism quite well.
In Washington and in states across our union, a debate is raging that could quickly result in a fundamental freedom, and a public health tool, being stripped from us. President Trump has recently hinted at an across-the-board ban on flavored vaping.
The rush to ban flavors has been partly driven by the stories of reported illnesses and deaths related to vaping. As we continue to learn more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that THC vaping has played a major role in these illnesses, as 84% of the patients have reported use of THC-containing products.
The other factor pushing lawmakers to ban flavors is the increasing numbers in youth vaping. Youth vaping is a problem in this country and is just as much as a challenge as teen smoking, teen drug use and teen drinking. All things we wish young adults would not partake in, but unfortunately happen during the experimental years, nonetheless.
It was during those teen years when I developed my addiction to cigarettes. It started out as a rebellious thing with friends and eventually developed to a pack and a half a day addiction. The addiction to smoking nearly killed me. When I was 35 years old, I was diagnosed with Smoker’s Leg or Buerger’s Disease. The disease resulted in me being on a path to a possible double amputation.
Quitting smoking became a life or death issue at that point. Something that started out innocently when I was an “invincible” teen was looking to change and possibly end my life.
You don’t have to be a medical professional to know that quitting smoking cold turkey is a hard. That is why hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on nicotine gum and patches each year, but I know from experience they did not help me. The patches gave me blisters and the gum was useless and medication caused terrible side effects like mood swings and depression.
Then I discovered vaping. My first attempt at vaping was with tobacco flavor and it did not go over well. The tobacco taste made me miss cigarettes, a common issue. Then I tried a vanilla cookie flavor and I have not looked back to smoking since.
Vaping is a lifesaving option for millions of Americans just like me. While it is the vaping that makes the health difference, it was the flavor that made this alternative attractive to me. I am in absolutely in agreement that marketing vaping to young adults and teens is wrong, but that cannot drive policies that will impact the millions of adult smokers who are looking for a better way to quit.
The fact is vaping is 95% less harmful than burning and smoking traditional tobacco. Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 toxic chemicals which are not present in e-cigarettes. Add in that 80% of adult vapers choose a flavor option and you start to see why removing flavors would have a catastrophic impact on us.
West Virginia leads the nation in adult smoking. About 27% of West Virginians of smoking age are addicted to cigarettes. Most adults understand smoking is bad but the addiction to nicotine is too strong to quit. It is a sad fact that leaves over 400,000 Americans dead each year as a result of smoking.
Thousands of West Virginians who have made the choice to vape wake up with a healthier future. The federal and state governments should not prevent anyone else from choosing the option to vape flavored products.
Vaping saves lives and it is often the flavors that make the switch possible. While kids will likely find ways around the bans and be forced toward the unsafe black market, it is adults like me who will be left with few options and be forced back to traditional cigarettes.
That is why on Saturday, the United Vapers Alliance hosted a rally outside of the White House to make our voices heard. This issue is important enough to me to become a single-issue voter and the rally is our way of telling the politicians no more.
If our warnings are not heeded there will be consequences in 2020.
Tina Taylor is a resident of Cass, West Virginia.