Vaping is a pretty hot topic. Some people would like to see more restrictions on vaping products. In Smithville, aldermen have considered banning flavored vape juices, and other communities and states are looking at similar changes.

I do not support the banning of flavored vape juice. Our rights in this country are all about choice. We have the freedom to elect idiots to office, we are free to eat greasy burgers and we are free to choose what flavored nicotine we subject our bodies to — if any.

That being said, vaping nicotine may have saved my life. I was a 16-year-old smoker who was never going to quit. Then vape was made available and after 12 years of nicotine use, I did quit. As part of a New Year’s resolution in 2018, I gave up cigarettes and tapered down my nicotine levels until I was strong enough to set the device down entirely. I’ve been nicotine free since September, and finding a flavor of vape juice that worked for me helped me do it.

There are countless arguments made against vaping products.

Some opponents say the vape companies are targeting youth, but are they? Or are they targeting people? We have flavored liquor. The legal purchasing age for alcohol is 21 — the same as for tobacco and vape products — and you don’t see people trying to ban flavored booze. There are alcohol popsicles too. Are those targeting youth?

As a former nicotine user, I am a success story, and I’m not alone. According to a Harvard University study, 18% of people successfully quit smoking through vaping compared to 10% who used other replacement therapies like gum or a patch.

Data shows there are a lot of people who replace smoking with vaping long term. Some, like myself, quit using nicotine products altogether. Some feel healthier using vape than other nicotine products. Around 80% of vape users continued to use vape products, while only 9% of people using other replacements continued to use them after quitting smoking. Researchers also found cough and phlegm dropped more in the vape group.

Vape-related illness has made headlines in recent months, but you have to look at the whole story. Vaping nicotine, which is legal, isn’t the issue, illegal substances are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, laboratory findings of patients with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury identified vitamin E acetate, an additive in some THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products. Flavored vape juice had nothing to do with it. Why take action like banning flavored vape juice to limit illness when you could legalize recreational marijuana to cripple the black market? You’d have more effect that way; no more vape-related illness.

There are other actions the government could take like limiting nicotine levels, passing regulations requiring shops test products or banning types of advertising like Marlboro’s cowboy.

Education is how we reduced the use of cigarettes in youth prior to the vaping crisis, and education and open minds will help us this time around too. We need to partner with parents and the education system rather than restricting the rights of our citizens. And if someone doesn’t head the lesson that nicotine is harmful to your health, allow them options to find their own solutions.

I again point out I was 16 when I started smoking. I was an addicted youth who quit later in life. My mom, dad and school taught me the dangers of smoking. Society already took my cigarettes and me as a smoker out of all public spaces. The message was clear: Nicotine means discrimination and poor health. I lit up anyway and vape got me out of an unhealthy habit.

If I didn’t have my special brand of strawberry, kiwi, pomegranate and mint-flavored vape juice, I’d be a smoker today. My preferred vape retailer helped me taper my usage until I gave it up completely. It’s a scenario that plays out frequently. These success stories need to be part of the community dialogue about vaping.

I’m just asking you not to be hasty and to educate yourselves. Talk to a smoker. Consider how hard it would be to give up your favorite drink, or food or yoga. Whatever it is getting you through the day, give it up, cold turkey, no looking back.

Could you do it? Would you need help? I’m asking society to understand, I was the youth smoker. Nicotine-users have rights too. Please, stop taking them away.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.​

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