E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. The liquid usually has nicotine and flavoring in it, and other additives. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is addictive.
In 2018, the FDA moved to limit access to e-cigarettes after vaping increased 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle schoolers in one year. According to American Cancer Society Vice President Cliff Douglas, e-cigarette usage risks creating a new generation of tobacco users. The FDA's 2018 proposal to end the sale of flavored vaping products to minors is now backed by the Trump administration. According to the New York Times' Sheila Kaplan:
Sitting in the Oval Office with the government’s top health officials, President Trump acknowledged that there was a vaping problem and said: “We can’t allow people to get sick. And we can’t have our kids be so affected.”
But teens aren't the only ones who use e-cigarettes. Traditional smokers are turning to vaping as a "less-dangerous" alternative to traditional cigarettes. There's no arguing that vaping is still bad for one's health, but traditional cigarettes are certainly worse. According to the Economist, smoking kills 450,000 Americans annually, making the argument that if e-cigarettes are used to "wean people off of tobacco" specifically, they could save lives:
E-cigarettes are not good for you. The vapour that vapers inhale is laced with nicotine, which is addictive. Some of the other chemicals in it may be harmful. But vaping is far less dangerous than smoking tobacco—a uniquely deadly product. If people turn to e-cigarettes as a substitute for the conventional sort, the health benefits are potentially huge.
A trend with such extreme growth—no matter what it is—deserves the undivided attention of the government and public health organizations. The New York Times' Kaplan reports:
The White House and the F.D.A. have faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, public health officials, parents and educators, who have grown alarmed by the popularity of vaping among teenagers but have felt powerless to keep e-cigarettes away from students and out of schools.
At the time of this writing, six deaths and nearly 500 cases of lung-related illnesses have been linked to vaping, which Kaplan says "have only amplified concerns and renewed calls for a total ban on the largely unregulated pipeline of e-cigarette and cannabis vaping products."
A ban on flavored products is a move in the right direction, but there is obviously room for further regulation. With little conclusive research on the long-term effects of vaping in young adults, some suggest the products should be removed from the shelf altogether:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged people, especially nonsmokers and teenagers, not to vape at all. And the C.D.C. has even recommended that cigarette smokers trying to quit should consult a doctor rather than take up e-cigarettes.
Some stand by the benefits e-cigarettes offer to smokers. As one person explains on Twitter, the response to the vaping trend should take this into consideration:
I'm aware it's an issue for our youth but we don't understand enough about it yet to jump to a ban. Do more research, tell people to clean their tanks more and regulate the material to make sure it's safe.