The new ban on e-cigarette flavors is creating restrictions that reach beyond kids

“I tried (vaping) and I was like this is like smoking a cigarette. But I’m not waking up with phlegm in my throat, my clothes aren’t reeking, and it’s cheaper,” said Alex Hallerman, a junior communications major. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Use of e-cigarettes by high school students has jumped 78 percent since last year while middle schoolers saw a 48 percent increase, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Vaping and e-cigarettes have become such a dangerous trend among youth, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes it to have reached epidemic proportions according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

There is evidence that nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in cigarettes and vapes, can harm the brain development of teenagers. Studies have also shown that vaping in earlier years has a stronger link to later use of regular cigarettes and other tobacco products, according to the American Cancer Society.

“This troubling reality is prompting us to take even more forceful action” – such as ending the sales of flavored e-cigarettes, banning flavors in cigars, banning the market of e-cigarette products to children and finally, banning menthol flavor for cigarettes and cigars – “to stem this dangerous trend,” Gottlieb said.  

This new ban will restrict flavors that appeal to kids, such as cherry and vanilla, from being sold in retail stores and some online manufacturers. Following the proposals, the FDA took action in September 2018 to begin the process by issuing out warning letters and fines to retailers who illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors, according to the American Cancer Society. Still, some Chapman students believe that this proposal won’t have much of an impact on the vaping habits for young people.

Juul user Alyssa Houston, 20, is below California’s 21+ legal age to buy any tobacco-related products. But Houston either has her older friends buy Juul pods for her or she goes to select gas stations where she knows that she won’t get carded, she said.

“Personally, I only like mint so I’m not affected by [the ban] but I feel like people [who are affected] will still find a way to get the flavors they like,” said the junior communications major.

Though the proposal was made to deter recreational use by kids, limiting flavors and methods in which students get their e-cigarette supplies appears to be insufficient to curb existing addictions for some.

After being introduced to a Juul through a friend during her senior year of high school, Houston said she has been hooked ever since.

Smoking her Juul has become more about the habit and less about the sensation, she said. While the Juul gives her the occasional head rush, “after hitting it all day long, it eventually doesn’t faze you,” Houston said.

Then, there’s the habit: “There’s just a feeling of having (a Juul pen) – it’s like having your cell phone on you,” Houston said.

Raising the age restriction from 18 to 21 for California back in 2016 was the first attempt to impede the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among youth. However, age laws are becoming futile as students have found ways to bypass the rules.

Houston agrees that e-cigarette usage and kids are not a good combination. “I know people who will do it in the movie theaters and stuff but it’s like, have respect for other people. Also, when there are kids around I feel bad so I don’t do it around them,”  Houston said.

While Houston restricts her Juul use around kids, she thinks Juuling is just a new trend in society, she said.

“It’s sad that little kids are doing it but I also think that there’s always something new that comes out that’s not good for kids and it’s better that it’s this than something worse,” Houston said.

The most important thing when it comes to vaping is finding the right merchant, said Tori Erikson, a freshman biology major.

Erikson began vaping with a mod (a bigger type of e-cigarette) when she was 17-years-old.  

“Once the law passed [that changed the age restriction], a lot of shop owners would still sell to their past customers,” Erikson said.

Erikson was able to get e-cigarette juice through friends who had forged relationships with a merchant or supplier while they were still underage.

But some argue that vaping is a less harmful way to ingest a substance – nicotine – to which they have long been addicted.

Since smoking a pack of cigarettes a day since he was 17-years-old, Alex Hallerman was able to quit his two-year-long relationship with tobacco by switching to vapes, said the junior communications major.

The FDA’s proposition could prevent other students who are in similar situations, Hallerman said.

Before making the switch, he tried nicotine gum, the patch, and even Chantix, a smoking cessation aid that can help people quit smoking, he said.

“That’s what my parents pushed me towards but I was like, ‘no you don’t understand. I need the hand-to-mouth thing,’” Hallerman said.

David Daleo, the owner of Dr. Vapor, the Old Towne Vape shop in the circle, is concerned that the ban will keep more people smoking cigarettes.

“When you vape something that tastes completely different than tobacco, you enjoy it. I know that their concern is that we’re going after kids, but adults like flavor too,” Daleo said.

After targeting larger companies such as Juul Labs, the mounting pressure from the FDA has made the company suspend sales of their flavored pods at their stores. But gas stations, convenience stores, and other outlets are still able to sell Juul products.

As of right now, Daleo isn’t worried about his two vape stores. He believes much more robust legislation will need to occur before his storefronts will lose sales.

“I see the concern but until they start focusing on California I’m not worried. Once they do, it’ll be the death of our industry,” he said. “We pride ourselves in having a variety and I have hundreds of flavors here.”

Leslie Song

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