Views by Anu Shetty and Joseph Russo
Graphics by Aspasia Celia Tsampas
In the wake of New York’s flavored e-cigarette ban on September 17th, The Campus’ Anu Shetty and Joseph Russo decided to duel out their opinions and opposing viewpoints on the controversial topic. The views depicted in these articles are the author’s own and do not represent the opinion of the entire magazine or its staff.
Pro-Ban: Don’t Be THAT Guy
By Anu Shetty
Picture this… you just had a great night out with a few pals. Everyone met at the usual spot to celebrate your friend’s birthday, but the last round of tequila shots, that you didn’t really want, got to you. You’re propping yourself up on the bar when the room starts to move in and out of focus and you realize it’s time to go.
You reach into your back pocket for your phone, for an Uber home but, something’s not right, something – someone – is missing. It happens quickly… Panic. Cold sweat – coming on. Adrenaline pumping – the heartbeat of a marathon runner. The last few rounds of drinks seem to have lost their effect. Your eyes zero-in on every table in the bar, scanning for her. Where is she? WHERE IS SHE? You ask your friends if they’d seen her, but no one can seem to account for anything past the final round of beer pong — 15 minutes ago. She could be anywhere by now. Anywhere.
A million thoughts race through your head. She means so much to you. After the last time…especially after the last time… you know you can’t lose her again. Just as you are about to lose hope, the thought of one remaining hiding place steadies you. You reach into your jacket pocket and there she is…Your baby. Your entire life…
The recent spike in e-cigarette use amongst teens and college-aged kids is hardly a secret. Steps taken by government agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the last year, and more recently by state-level officials, such as New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, to curb usage have become front-page news and have left many people scrambling to deal with the effects of such legislative action.
While some have handled it better than others – taking it as a sign that maybe it’s time to quit – there is no question that this news has devastated people on campus, sometimes to the point of reaching out to their representatives in grief over the absolute travesty that is the recent flavor regulations.
Going into my senior year at City College, I have seen first-hand how the epidemic has spread to our campus over the last four years. While walking around campus freshman year, now 3 years ago, you were more likely to see people smoking cigarettes in the stairwells of the NAC or right outside The Towers. Within the last year, the sheer number of e-cig users – in the quad, in the library, or when professors have their back to the class – is ubiquitous and almost inconceivable.
Previous steps taken by the FDA in 2018 to crackdown on e-cigarette use in teenagers have involved flavor bans and civil monetary penalties to retailers selling e-cigarette devices or pods to underage kids yet, unsurprisingly, current research has proven such efforts futile.
Though companies like Juul have acknowledged that previous marketing techniques had been targeted at teenagers and regulations imposed to reduce such advertising have been implemented, new research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that since 2017, the number of teens who vape has doubled. With 9% of eighth-graders and 25% of twelfth-graders now reporting to be vaping, the epidemic has reached new heights and it is time for more serious measures to be taken.
In an uncharacteristically helpful move by the Trump administration, in response to the six deaths and nearly five hundred cases of respiratory illnesses that have been linked to vaping products, a public announcement was made that within the next few weeks, the FDA would propose a plan for removing the remaining flavors on the market besides tobacco. Shortly after, Governor Cuomo also announced the removal of all e-cigarette flavors, sans tobacco and menthol.
Unsurprisingly, criticism was quick to come from e-cigarette users and lobbyists, with a few main arguments emerging, as smoke from these metaphorical fires. One argument is that the vaping-related deaths that were all over the news were actually linked to THC vaping devices, not e-cigarettes themselves. So, if there is no conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes are negatively affecting people, then why are they being restricted?
The first point I would like to address is that despite the veracity that current research is pointing more towards the illness being linked to chemicals used in THC pods, all the people who died also used e-cigarettes, with research still being done to see if there is a possible link. It is important to highlight that while the long term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown, nicotine (a key ingredient in e-cigarettes) is highly addictive and has detrimental health outcomes.
Nicotine stimulates epinephrine release which causes your central nervous system to activate and increases your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. At the same time, it opens the dopamine receptors and releases the pleasure-inducing and behavior-reinforcing chemical. Therefore, the gratification one gets from vaping, drives them to continue doing it, despite the increased chance of stroke and heart disease from the constant increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
Though these effects have a greater chance of influencing youth brain development, the effects extend to people of all ages. This brings me to my second point – though current efforts are being made to prevent teenagers from using e-cigarettes, the effects of the flavor restrictions can benefit everyone. I can understand just as well as any reasonable person that normal combustible cigarettes are not good for you, and that e-cigarettes were created with good intentions as a way for smokers to transition away from and slowly quit cigarettes. However, when about 80% of current youth smokers cite the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use, it is clear that its audience is no longer the group it was originally meant for.
Many try to argue that it is unfair that flavors are being removed from the market for people who are legally of age to purchase and use the products because underage children are getting their hands on them. They also claim that regulating flavors will create a black market for such products that will be made with fewer regulations and will end up being less safe.
While this response would be justified if Washington were run differently, the institutions set up by our government work (in theory) to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The rampant use of e-cigarettes amongst teens warrants the CDC’s response, as it has long cited protecting the safety, health, and security of Americans from public health crises such as chronic and communicable diseases as well as epidemics as its main mission.
Additionally, if your argument is that regulations do not work and that the government should not be able to impose them on law-abiding citizens, you are hoping for a Libertarian style government that we (thank God) do not have. You don’t get to pick and choose how the government cares about health. While we all understand that there are always people that will find their way around regulations, without restrictions in place, we would be living in a lawless society where there was, for instance, no increased taxation or Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes that led to a decrease in smokers.
In previous reporting I have done for The Campus, I sat down with City College students and discussed the original flavor ban that was imposed in the fall of last year. During the conversation, inadvertent uses of e-cigarettes were mentioned and are points I can understand people being upset over. Once you have gotten used to using an e-cigarette to deal with stress or to help you focus, it can be difficult to lose that outlet. While FDA flavor regulations are efforts to reduce the number of youths using e-cigarette devices, accessible alternative approaches for the more nuanced reasons for starting to vape, such as anxiety, could produce the desired outcome of fewer users.
For the people who are still unconvinced and are asking “why now?”- I feel like a better question would be why not now? If the United States is going to lead as a nation that prioritizes preventative care versus only acknowledging reactive care, we need to start moving now. I am currently a research assistant at NYU Langone Medical Center where we are conducting a study on the effects of e-cigarettes on heart and lung function in adults and children and personally, I would love if legislative action was taken before the results of our study are even published. The effects of nicotine addiction are known and serious, and progress now is the only way to stop whole generations of kids from acquiring one.
Now, imagine this:
After reading this article, you’re out with your friends, one too many tequila shots deep, and you can head home with some sense of pride knowing that you don’t look like this guy every single time you leave a room.
Anti-Ban: Vape Hater Andrew Cuomo Bans Flavored E-Cigs In New York State
By Joseph Russo
On September 17th, New York became the second state – following the state of Michigan – to enact legislation that prevents consumers from purchasing flavored E-Cig products anywhere within the state. The legislation, perhaps, stems from research acquired by the state’s Department of Health which reveals that nearly 40 percent of 12th-grade students and 27 percent of high schoolers in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, an increase most likely driven by flavored e-liquids. This is where the epidemic factor stems from vaping – which is apparently one of New York’s most pressing issues – and something obviously had to done before any more teenagers could consensually begin their nicotine addictions – right?
Governor Cuomo stated in an emergency press conference: “New York is confronting this crisis head-on and today, we are taking another nation-leading step to combat a public health emergency. Manufacturers of fruit and candy-flavored e-cigarettes are intentionally and recklessly targeting young people, and today we’re taking action to put an end to it.” These tactics are similar to the business tactics used by brands such as Smirnoff, that continue to sell a large variety of fruity and candy-flavored liquors.
Many individuals, such as myself, turned to the Juul in order to stop smoking menthol cigarettes. The flavors allowed me to disassociate myself from the taste of tobacco. Now, with the ban effectively in place, the only pods available for purchase will be menthol and tobacco flavors. From personal experience; I can assure readers that both the menthol and tobacco flavored pods taste similar, if not identical to, an actual cigarette. This means that many teenagers and adults who juuled in an attempt to quit tobacco, are now forced to use products that taste exactly like the cigarettes they were trying to quit – sucked back into its black hole. I happen to think the majority of former-smokers-turned-juulers will just go back to buying packs of cigs as a result of the ban, even if they cost $14 a pack.
Consumers aren’t the only ones being punished without mercy. Research indicates that there are roughly 700 shops that sell flavored e-tobacco products. This approximates to a loss of about 2100-2500 jobs throughout the state, not to mention a massive drop in profits as a consequence of the limited quantity, value, and consumer demand for the non-restricted Juul products.
Despite these facts and projections which document the ugly side of this ban, it would be inappropriate for me not to discuss the serious toll vaping has taken on its consumer population. So far, there have been over 800 documented cases of lung problems, and other major medical symptoms related to vaping. In addition, 13 people have died due to complications purportedly related to vaping nicotine and THC cartridges. These and other statistics show that although vaping may be a safer solution to smoking, it is by no means healthful for a person.
It must be noted, however, that many media outlets and medical professionals have been unable to determine the sole cause of the deaths involved with these individuals. Due to nationwide state regulations, scientists involved with cannabis research have not been able to legally conduct a single test for the many wax cartridges that exist within America’s black market. Since scientists are unable to pinpoint what is causing the deaths exactly – e-cig products or illegal and unregulated THC carts – these deaths have been generalized as “vaping related deaths”
Due to sheer volume, there is no statistic out there to fully represent the total number of college students that use E-Cig related products. I am fairly certain, however, that we all personally know at least one person that uses a Juul (or a Stig, or one of the many other vaping products that can be found on the market). I was able to interview CCNY student, Christian Alexander, on the Juuling epidemic, the subsequent flavor ban, and the question of why so many people, college students, in particular, have turned to the Juul. On this burning question, Alexander shared, “I think it’s because it’s so convenient to use. Also, you don’t smell bad after you use it.”
Alexander also informed me that many of his personal friends use the Juul or other related vaping products, and some after smoking cigarettes for a few years. He further elaborated, “Some of my friends in high school, even college, started Juuling [using e-cigs] once they started going to parties and using their friend’s devices. During 2017, the year that several young adults began using e-cigarettes, many young users were unaware of the addictiveness of nicotine.”
As a reminder, mainstream American history shows us that bans on valuable products aren’t effective at all. In the 1920s, the United States’ government tried to outlaw the sale of alcohol, only to be undermined by hundreds of thousands of speakeasies and other illegal establishments that served cold brews. In this scenario, it is true that e-cigs can continue to be purchased online on illegal websites, and you can bet that the young, intelligent, and determined college student possess the internet savvy required to exploit this loophole and acquire liquid nicotine by any means necessary.
New York State’s former e-tobacco users are going to be in scramble mode. It’s not unlikely to assume that some individuals will travel to New Jersey for flavored tobacco, where it currently remains legal. For some, buying cigarettes may become a harsh reality once again but, to Cuomo, at least we no longer have to worry about any New Yorkers dying at the hands of a vape!!