Vape Mail Ban Will Cause More Harm Than Good
Tucked away into the 5,500-page federal COVID relief legislation that passed in December 2020 was a provision that banned the United States Postal Service from shipping virtually any kind of vaping or e-cigarette product to individuals. The legislation is called the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act. You probably know it as the "vape mail ban."
While the bill only covers the USPS, the passage of PACT triggered all major U.S. shipping providers to jump on board with banning vape products. Here's the breakdown:
USPS: Banning all vapor products on or around April 27. Exact date not yet entirely clear.
UPS: Banning all vaping products on April 5.
FedEx: Stopped shipping vapor products on March 1.
DHL: Already banned the shipment of vapor products.
It wasn't voted on as a separate issue. The vaping ban was shoved into a bill that was too big to fail. And it's poised to cripple an entire industry made up of small vaping companies that have major revenue streams in selling to online shoppers. Brick and mortar stores, which should still be able to get vape supplies shipped to them, will undoubtedly benefit. It's the customers who will suffer.
Vape shops can be everywhere, but they have a low selection and a high price markup. Finding the right kind of e-juice that tastes good is difficult and requires a lot of experimentation. Don't be surprised if someone would rather go back to smoking than have to vape some fruity-tasting chemical bath found at the nearest gas station or vape shop.
This Is How We Got Here
There is an understandable concern about vaping. It's new, and many people would rather stick to cigarettes despite the plethora of science out there proving that cigarettes cause cancer. But people are skeptical and scared to adopt vaping, especially after 2019's deadly outbreak of EVALI, which stands for e-cigarette or vaping use associated lung injury.
A total of 2,807 EVALI cases have been reported, and 68 deaths have been confirmed, according to the CDC. Scientists have identified the most likely culprit as the presence of vitamin E acetate, an additive used in THC vaping juices.
That is not insignificant. Sixty-eight people lost their loved ones because some people used vitamin E acetate to dilute or thicken THC oil and sold it on the black market. These cartridges were illegally sold. A 2019 report by Anresco Laboratories found that nine out of 15 illicitly sold THC cartridges contained a high degree of vitamin E acetate, while none of the legally sold cartridges did.
Let's put that in perspective. In 2018, the CDC estimated that 3.2 percent of all adults in the United States are regular vapers. There are about 255.2 million people over the age of 18 in the United States. Do some quick and dirty math, and that means there are, very roughly, 8,166,400 adult vapers. Sixty-eight people have been confirmed to have died from a vaping-related illness. That's a death rate of 0.0008 percent.
You already know what's coming next — comparisons to smoking and drinking! But just briefly:
You probably wouldn't know about that 0.0008 percent of vaping-related deaths because the media was in a frenzy about people's lungs collapsing after using e-cigarettes. Commercials aired nationwide, showing people laid up in hospital beds, hooked on respirators. It scared the hell out of people. Vice talked to several vapers who were so spooked by the news that they switched back to cigarettes.
"After enough articles, it started f ---ing with my newfound love for vaping," a 24-year-old returning smoker told Vice. "I realized that if I'm going to die from nicotine, I'd rather have it be at age 60 from cancer than 24 from my lungs exploding or whatever. Whether or not it's been blown out of proportion is yet to be seen. So I picked up a pack of American Spirits and went on my merry way."
Kids Vape, But Not As Much As You May Think
Speaking of spooky news, have you seen some of those anti-vaping ads? They make teenagers look like meth addicts tweaking out over where their next hit will come from. But hey, that kind of over-the-top messaging worked for D.A.R.E, right? No, wait, the opposite happened.
The main reason for banning e-cigarette products by mail is to keep e-cigarettes away from kids. But if that's the case, why can't we implement the same kind of ID checking system that is used to buy alcohol online?
So just how many kids are hooked on e-juice? A 2020 NYU School of Public study found that very few middle and high schoolers vape or smoke daily. In fact, over 86 percent of youth don't vape.
A 2020 FDA study on tobacco and e-cigarette use among high schoolers and middle schoolers found that e-cigarette use declined by 1.8 million users since the previous year.
That's not to say that youth don't vape. That would be disingenuous. That same FDA study found that 3.6 million youth use e-cigarettes. Among all students, 1.45 million used a combustible tobacco product (like cigarettes, cigars and hookahs). Use of all tobacco products declined by 1.73 million.
Smoking and e-cigs are becoming less and less popular. Of course, they won't be eradicated. We've been trying to keep kids from alcohol and tobacco for many decades. And rightly so. No one wants a kid to develop a nicotine habit.
But why aren't we also talking about the benefits of vaping instead of smoking? In 2018, the British Health Service wrote:
"Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits over continued smoking. Based on current knowledge, stating that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking remains a good way to communicate the large difference in relative risk unambiguously so that more smokers are encouraged to make the switch from smoking to vaping. It should be noted that this does not mean e-cigarettes are safe."
Despite this and other similar findings, some areas — most notably San Francisco — have outright banned the sale of e-cigarettes while still allowing the sale of good old, cancer-causing smokes. OK, that's not entirely true. In San Francisco, you can buy exactly one kind of electronic cigarette: the Marlboro Heatstick. Maybe more, if vaping companies can pass certain FDA regulations.
Yet the only companies with deep enough pockets to get FDA approval will likely be the big tobacco companies, meaning the e-cigarette business is poised to be controlled by the people who spent decades lying about the dangers of smoking.
'The Future Does Not Look Bright'
Online vaping companies are scrambling to find a way to keep their business open. "We are still working on alternative solutions but unfortunately cannot provide any concrete information now," Freeman Vape Juice, a vaping company in Livermore, California, posted on their website. "We suggest to all our customers to order and stock up now, the future does not look bright."
Freeman Vape Juice later announced that they are closing their doors.
In all likelihood, the vape ban will decimate online retailers and put countless small businesses down for good. Some may be lucky enough to find a small shipping carrier willing to work with them. Even then, those carriers may only serve a select area. Millions of Americans living in rural areas will have no ability to get vape products shipped to their homes.
No one acting in a good faith argument will tell you that vaping is 100 percent safe. But it's abundantly clear that vaping is safer than smoking, and vapers really do not want to go back to smoking. I don't.
I can't even have a puff of a cigarette without gagging. I don't even like talking about vaping because I expect to be lumped in with people who are way too into vaping and participate in things like cloud-chasing championships, which is exactly what you expect it to be.
As an adult, all I want to do is be able to order the e-juice flavor that I like and vape in my own home, so I don't have to go back to cigarettes. So do millions of other U.S. adults.