WASHINGTON, D.C. The vaping craze continues to take the U.S. by storm. While some believe vapes help cigarette smokers quit their habits, others say flavored e-cigarettes are attracting kids who would not otherwise smoke.
“I definitely tried it for the first time because I thought I was going to be cool by smoking it,” said Brendan Gillan, a 22-year old e-cigarette user.
Gillan started smoking electronic cigarettes at the age of 16. He says part of the reason he began vaping as a minor was due to the variety of flavors.
“That’s what got me addicted to nicotine. I liked the flavor of it,” said Gillan.
Gillan says e-cigarettes lead him to smoking real cigarettes. He is now back using his vape to quit smoking real cigarettes.
“The positive is that you don’t have to smoke cigarettes anymore honestly. Like, that’s the only real positive I take away from the vape,” said Gillan.
Vaping was a gateway for Gillan, and lawmakers in Washington say that is evident across the country. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) wants to get rid of flavored e-cigarettes unless manufacturers can prove they do not increase youth smoking.
“Let’s not put these kids on a trajectory for an addiction that is absolutely unnecessary, unwanted and just wrong,” said Murkowski.
Murkowski recently reintroduced legislation that would prohibit vape flavors if manufacturers cannot prove a health benefit. She says she is working with the Food and Drug Administration to light a fire under manufacturers. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA until earlier this month, said back in March that denying minors access to e-cigarettes is a top priority.
“We’re trying to engage in a very careful public health balancing here: trying to preserve access for adults while we try to do as much as we can to foreclose access to the kids,” said Gottlieb.
Murkowski’s bipartisan legislation is awaiting approval in the Senate.
One of the leading e-cigarette brands JUUL said in a statement, ”Flavors are a complex issue. We believe flavors play a critical role in switching adult smokers from cigarettes; we see the results in our own behavioral research. While we do not and will not sell flavors which are clearly targeted to youth, we also understand that flavors that drive adults from cigarettes have the potential to appeal to youth.
“To strike the right balance between preserving accessibility for adult smokers, while restricting access for youth, we stopped the distribution of non-tobacco/non-menthol-based flavored pods to traditional retail. Currently, we sell these flavored products only through our ecommerce platform (JUUL.com), where we utilize industry-leading third-party age-verification and restrict bulk purchases."