Why banning vaping should be a government priority?

By The Editorial Board 28 April 2024, 10:00AM

The opportunity to get a handle on vaping before it becomes a full blown public health catastrophe is slipping away from us.

E-cigarette use is exploding among Samoa’s youth. This is an emergency.

If we don’t confront this problem now, vaping has the potential to become a public health disaster akin to the smoking epidemic of decades past. In the 1970s, more than three-quarters of men and a quarter of women were regular smokers.

It’s taken half a century and countless laws, taxes and millions spent on education campaigns to reduce that figure.

In that time, hundreds of Samoans died preventable, unnecessary deaths from smoking-related illnesses.

We cannot allow this to happen again. The Government’s regulatory regime to stop people from smoking vapes needs to be effective.

Kids today are picking up vapes for the same reasons their parents and grandparents smoked cigarettes.

They do so out of curiosity because they’re seen as fun, cool and rebellious.

The tactics of the companies marketing these products haven’t changed much either. They know that they need to lure in a market as young as possible now before the health impacts are fully known. That way, these companies might get a few decades out of their business before their customer base starts to die off.

So, they aggressively market towards teens and pre-teens, with brightly coloured packaging and flavours that sound more like a stick of bubble gum than a potential carcinogen.

That’s the other great trick these companies are playing. Gen Z, and Gen Alpha behind them, are savvy and health-conscious. Most wouldn’t dream of lighting up a conventional cigarette.

But they’ve been hoodwinked into thinking that e-cigarettes are a harmless alternative. After all, it’s only water vapour, right?

Along with chemicals found in weed killer, nail polish remover and bug spray.

E-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for us to know their long-term health impacts, but they’re unlikely to be good. We know the short-term effects include nausea, airway irritation, chest pain and heart palpitations.

The importation of vapes should be banned. It’s a regulation that is long overdue, Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Vaping, while initially developed to deter adults from conventional smoking, has become an accessory of teenage life.

Since 2014, vape pens have been the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teen vaping is now a norm. More than that, it is an epidemic.

On the rare occasion that the subject of vaping arises, most parents will respond with some vague and incoherent variation of “you shouldn’t do that, it’s bad” before promptly shutting down the conversation.

The reluctance to talk about vaping stigmatises these discussions, causing teens to feel uncomfortable reaching out to adults if they or their peers are struggling.

Furthermore, the complexity of the issue calls for more in-depth conversations about its consequences.

While it is often reiterated that vaping is an unhealthy habit, its specific negative effects are not widely known.

For example, most teens don’t know that nicotine, the drug contained in vape pens, has been proven to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin. Nor is it a common fact that adolescents who vape are roughly four times more likely to become smokers than those who do not.

Another lesser-known implication of vaping is its effect on the environment.

Disposable vape pens are the most commonly used device among teen tobacco users. They contain reusable lithium-ion batteries, but teen users often put their used devices directly into the household trash.

This improper disposal can have detrimental effects on the environment, according to a 2021 study by Truth Initiative, a public health organization working to end smoking and vaping.

Normalising conversations about vaping would equip teens with the necessary background information to make the right choices and ensure they have trusted adults to turn to if they make the wrong ones.

This is not to say that there has been no attempt to address the teen vaping epidemic, but current efforts focus solely on keeping e-cigarettes out of teens’ hands and do not teach us how to keep ourselves, our peers, and the environment safe in a society where vaping is ingrained into teenage life.

Efforts to shield teenagers from the dangerous and highly addictive world of e-cigarettes do not address the issue in its entirety. To do so, we need to normalise transparent conversations about teen vaping.

Burying the problem under ignorance and judgemental tones is not getting us anywhere. It’s time to clear the air. 

By The Editorial Board 28 April 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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