America vows to crack down on vaping epidemic

Big business: Vapers in the US, the UK and Japan spent $16.3 billion on smokeless tobacco in 2016.

Should e-cigarettes be banned? Vaping company Juul has slammed rival brands which sell flavours aimed at children. Meanwhile in the US, vaping has jumped by 80% among teenagers.

There are more than 40 million vapers worldwide. The global e-cigarette market is estimated to be worth $22.6 billion. This rise has coincided with a continued decline in the number of smokers.

Last week, the FDA found that vaping among teenagers had increased by 80%. The organisation’s head has previously announced plans to crack down on e-cigarettes to stem what he called an “epidemic of use” among teenagers.

“E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous — and dangerous — trend among teens,” he wrote.

In the UK, vaping company Juul has criticised other companies for selling flavours like “cotton candy” and “gummy bear” which are “clearly targeted to kids”.

Just how dangerous are e-cigarettes?

Inside every vape is a replaceable cartridge of liquid. This liquid is made up of vegetable glycerin and/or polyethylene glycol, flavouring and nicotine — the substance that makes smoking addictive. With each use, a sensor is triggered which causes a small amount to be heated and turned into vapour. That vapour is then inhaled.

There is no burning. And it is burning which creates the cancer-causing chemicals that make smoking tobacco so dangerous.

But although e-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, the nicotine can still harm your lungs. And since vaping is such a new phenomenon, we do not have any data on its long-term health effects.

The more pressing concern is that young people may take up vaping as a gateway drug before moving on to real cigarettes.

Smoking is the number one preventable killer in the United States. More than six million people die from smoking-related diseases around the world each year. Around half of those who take up vaping do so in order to curb their smoking habit.

And while people disagree on the extent of the risks posed by vaping, everyone agrees it is far, far less harmful than smoking.

Yet the tide of political opinion seems to be turning against vaping. Sales are banned to under 18s in most countries. Brazil has even gone so far as to ban vaping entirely.

What should our attitude be?

Smoking gun

Vape and let vape, say some. We should view e-cigarettes as one of the great health breakthroughs of modern times. Vaping is weaning millions off a deadly habit. It may not be completely harmless, but it is miles safer than tobacco. Banning it, taxing it and discouraging it could quite literally kill millions of people.

Be very careful, reply others. There are still too many mysteries surrounding vaping to give it an unconditional green light. Until we know its full effects, we should stay on the safe side. It is obvious that taking up vaping makes taking up smoking tobacco more likely. There are far better ways of giving up smoking.

You Decide

  1. Should vaping be encouraged or discouraged?
  2. Should smoking be banned entirely?


  1. Draw a diagram illustrating the difference between the effects of smoking and the effects of vaping.
  2. Design a poster encouraging people to quit smoking. Do you mention vaping or not?

Some People Say...

“Smoking is the perfect way to commit suicide without actually dying.”

Damien Hirst

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Smoking is ever so slightly on the decline. There are roughly a billion smokers worldwide, around half of whom are Chinese. Vaping remains largely a habit of richer countries: the US is by far the largest market, followed by Japan, the UK, Sweden and Italy. We know that vaping is much less harmful than smoking.
What do we not know?
There are contradictory findings over whether taking up vaping makes people more likely to take up smoking tobacco in the future. One study by the JAMA Network in the US found a correlation, while Public Health England found no evidence that vaping could be a gateway drug. We also do not know what happens to people who vape all through their adult lives.

Word Watch

40 million vapers worldwide
This compares to around a billion smokers. But just seven years ago, in 2011, there were only five million regular users of e-cigarettes. The market research group Euromonitor estimates that the number of adults who vape will reach 55 million by 2021.
$22.6 billion
Up from $4.2 billion just five years ago.
The US government agency that protects public health by regulating food safety, tobacco, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vaccines and cosmetics.
Vegetable glycerin and/or polyethylene glycol
Vegetable glycerin is produced from plant oils, typically palm, soy or coconut oil. Polyethylene glycol is its synthetic (non-natural) equivalent.
There are now movements in some countries to abolish flavoured e-cigarettes.
New phenomenon
Though vaping only became widespread in the last few years, the first “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” was invented in 1963 by a man named Herbert Gilbert.

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