Commentary: John Castle

As a Vaper, this is a sensitive subject for me, and I’m sure it is for you, as well. But it’s out there, it has to be dealt with, so let’s deal with it. Underage vaping. Let’s start things off with a joke — have ya heard the one about government officials? They have two reactions to anything and everything under the sun: If it moves, tax it and regulate it; if it doesn’t move, subsidize it and regulate it.

We’ve got to come to grips with this idea; vaping is going to be regulated. With that in mind, our best bet is to control regulation by actively embracing the minor stuff (pun intended) in the hope that that will satisfy the itchy trigger fingers of lawmakers. Think of prohibition of PV and eliquid sales to minors as a firebreak — a carefully controlled burn in a forest intended to take fuel and momentum away from an oncoming wildfire.

But that’s all this regulation should be expected to accomplish. According to Philly Now

Hold on a second. While the CDC survey found alarmists jumping on the number of teenagers sucking vapor (”Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes,” noted CDC Director Tom Frieden), it did not find any actual link between trying e-cigarettes and taking up hard, lit tobacco.

In fact, researcher Theodore Wagener, an assistant professor of general and community pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, recently led a study of 1,300 college students, and found no correlation between having tried e-cigarettes and smoking Winstons. According to a report on the findings:

Overall, 43 students said their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette. Of that group, only one person said they went on to smoke regular cigarettes. And the vast majority who started with e-cigarettes said they weren’t currently using any nicotine or tobacco.

The findings, it was noted, are still considered preliminary because they haven’t been reviewed by outside experts for publication, and the researchers did not suggest that e-cigs are risk-free, either. But as Wagner noted to an American Association for Cancer Research meeting: “It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything.”

The fact is, simply, that those kids who are interested in trying nicotine — I’m thinking specifically of high school and, in extreme cases, junior high school kids — are going to try nicotine. By and large, that’s going to remain cigarettes and chew, unless I miss my guess.

While PVs and eliquid just got harder for them to lay their hands on — and I can’t imagine that it was terribly easy or convenient before — cigarettes and chew haven’t gotten any more challenging for them to get a hold of, and here’s an anecdote to explain why:

The first cigarette I ever puffed on without inhaling (because I hadn’t gotten the hang of it yet) was given to me by a fellow high school kid. The first cigarette I ever actually inhaled smoke from, I got from a fellow high school kid at a party. Same place I got my first taste of liquor, in the form of Jungle Juice (fruit punch plus Everclear). The first pack of cigarettes I ever consumed, which was a pack of Chesterfield Kings, I swiped from the back of the glove box of my Granddad’s truck.

In not one of those instances was there a cashier involved; no ID necessary. No age verification of any kind going on. But there was one other factor involved that widely separates smokes from vapes: the cost. Can you imagine high school kids just giving away eliquid? Or $9 disposable cig-a-likes? Peer pressure tends to melt away to nothing when peer pressure is expensive.

So, to recap: Regulation is going to happen; that’s simply a fact, and there’s little, short of a second American Revolution, that we’re going to do about that. What we can do is what we’re already doing: support regulation-as-firebreak.

Because, hey… all the cool kids are doin’ it.

John Castle