As an somewhat contradictory example, in San Francisco USA, vaping is now of course banned, however sales of legal marijuana and tobacco will continue as usual. San Francisco has often been considered more progressive, arguably detrimentally so, than the rest of the US in its approach to drugs and unorthodox lifestyles. Marijuana was legalised in California for medical use in 1996, after a campaign by Aids activists from the city, and for recreational use in 2016. Vaping, on the other hand, has crossed a line. The key argument for the ban always seems to end up in the same place, it is for the betterment and protection of under 18’s. However the likelihood of any teen turning to fast cars, alcohol, marijuana or standard smoking is equally a risk, so why target vape so vehemently?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently said that the use of e-cigarettes as a “crisis among America’s youth”.
In the UK, meanwhile, the medical establishment is endorsing vaping as an aid to giving up smoking. My local vape shop in London is colourful, thriving, offers a panoply of flavours and displays a banner the length of its storefront proclaiming: “Vaping is 95% safer than smoking, according to NHS and Cancer Research UK.” Public Health England, PHE reported in 2015, the government executive agency and watchdog that offers guidelines on health protection issues.
A transatlantic rift has opened up over vaping and health. In the US, the war on vaping is being pursued by activists, politicians and scientists who believe that tobacco companies are cynically promoting e-cigarettes as a means to get people addicted to nicotine, which will – sooner or later – lead them to cigarettes. In the UK, anti-smoking campaigners and health experts counter that for many adult smokers, vaping offers the best hope of avoiding a premature death. However this gateway effect has yet to be fully proven, and ecigarettes seem to be the scapegoat to the big tobacco conglomerates. The key driver in this was the formation of the small JUUL devices and possibly its subsequent marketing.
The soaring popularity of vaping among the young in the US is largely down to JUUL, which is a tiny black device that looks like a USB stick and fits into the palm of ones hand. In 2004, two graduate students came up with the idea for an electronic alternative to smoking. They launched Juul in 2015, which quickly defined the market; by July 2019, Juul accounted for 75% of US e-cigarette sales. Since then, its fortunes have taken a dive. The company is accused, in dozens of lawsuits from San Diego to New York City via social media campaigns featuring youthful models. Opponents claim Juul pods are easier for novice vapers to inhale, since they contain nicotine salts instead of straight nicotine, further softened with teen-friendly flavourings such as mango, cool cucumber and creme brulee. Juul has repeatedly denied it has marketed to teens.