Nicotine consumption used to be simple. Those who wanted to smoke tobacco grabbed a cigarette, or maybe a cigar or pipe, and lit up. Today that seems so old-fashioned. We now have electronic devices that provide nicotine in a form that resembles smoking -- but lacks many of smoking’s negative side effects. Many people are turning to e-cigarettes or other devices to “vape” instead of smoking traditional cigarettes. This has drawn the attention of legislators across the nation (and the world).
Many proposals to regulate vaping or e-cigarette usage are unnecessary or counter-productive from a public health standpoint. Regulating vaping or e-cigarettes the same way we regulate tobacco will hurt individuals who want to quit smoking. Arkansas legislators recognized this fact earlier this year when they instituted a modest, well-crafted regulatory regime for vaping products and e-cigarettes. Policymakers across the U.S. should learn from the Arkansas reforms that were passed in 2015 and use them as a model for regulating these devices in their states.
Marc Kilmer’s new paper for the Advance Arkansas Institute explains a paradox: namely, because the consumption of nicotine by means of vaping or e-cigarettes doesn’t carry with it the same kind of health risks as smoking tobacco does, it is arguably a public health solution in some respects, rather than a public health problem. We hope policymakers and citizens will read and learn from Marc’s newest paper.