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Why Some Public Health Experts Are Critical Of Baker's Vaping Ban

Various Juul products are on display at Fast Eddie's Smoke Shop in Allston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Various Juul products are on display at Fast Eddie's Smoke Shop in Allston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The temporary state ban on the sale of vaping products is drawing some criticism not only from retailers but also from some public health experts.

Among them is Vaughn Rees, who directs the Center for Tobacco Control at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to explain why he’s skeptical of the ban.

Interview Highlights

On his reaction when the ban came down 

I can’t say I was entirely surprised, but I was disappointed.

It takes away a product that can be used by adult smokers to reduce the health risks associated with smoking. Completely removing those products means that we’ve got a number of people who have successfully transitioned from smoking to vaping — have reduced their health risks as a consequence. But because they’re dependent upon nicotine — may be faced with the prospect of returning to smoking, which would be a big problem in terms of both the health of individuals and the public health.

On whether the state should have banned the products for people under 21 instead

I have some concerns about that as well. While I think the role of government and other regulators is to prevent youth initiation of the use of vaping products, a complete ban may also have the impact of causing those kids who are already vaping to turn to conventional cigarettes. That’s obviously an outcome that we absolutely want to prevent. You know, while we have concerns about the use of vaping products, the evidence is very clear that the risks associated with the use of vaping products is far less than the risks associated with the use of cigarettes. We don’t want to unintentionally encourage kids who cannot access vaping products to begin smoking.

You know, it’s driven by nicotine dependence. So vaping products do contain nicotine, and when that vaping product is taken away, cigarettes are relatively convenient, they’re accessible and they will continue to be available.

On the absence of a ban on cigarettes

Cigarettes are the product that causes catastrophic injuries to individuals and cigarettes are known to be directly responsible for causing the deaths of almost half a million Americans a year. You know, that’s a catastrophic toll. It makes little sense really from a scientific — from a public health point of view — to continue to allow these products to be made available, easily accessible to the general public when the ones … that are also known to have vastly lower health risks is the one that is removed from sale and banned.

On whether the ban will be effective in stopping young people from vaping

It is likely to have some impact in keeping young people away from vaping. But again, this is a short term strategy and when a product is less accessible to young people, there’s a lower likelihood that they’ll use it. But the problem, of course, is that those kids that are already vaping may turn to cigarettes and may look for other alternatives that, because of the illicit nature, may be even more harmful than the ones that they’re currently using.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2019 WBUR

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