Puffin’ on nicotine, watchin’ the world burn: Why vape bans don’t work

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

Since the last time the Baylor Lariat published an editorial on e-cigarettes, many things have happened:

  • All states raised the legal age of smoking from 18 to 21 in Sept. 2019.
  • The FDA banned certain vaping flavors.
  • The FDA cracked down on specific vaping products, such as Juul.

However, vape juice is still leaking through the cracks within the legislation. Students turned their attention from the limited Juul products and pre-filled pods to a similar product: Puff Bars. Puff Bars made it through the strict confines of laws restricting vaping and tobacco products.

The quick and easy replacement of Juul proves that FDA’s legislative action (the ban on vapor flavors and age restrictions) do little to contribute in the war against nicotine.

Instead, as a new type of e-cigarette gains popularity, we must search for a way to stop the ever growing nicotine-addicted population. Clearly, outright bans and silly commercials featuring muppet creatures produced by the Truth Initiative are not effective.

Puff Bars mimic the popular, slick design of Juul products and its copycat vapes with one difference that allows it to get past the new flavored e-cigarette regulations; they are disposable and therefore, designed for one-time use.

Each pod stick contains 1.3 mL of juice in a rainbow of flavors surpassing the amount previously offered by the formerly reigning brand, Juul.

Some of these flavors include — but are not limited to — mango, blueberry, watermelon, pomegranate, peach, cafe latte, cool mint, banana ice, pink lemonade, grape, tobacco, cucumber and even O.M.G (which stands for orange, mango and grapefruit).

The brand easily filled a void that nicotine addicts were reaching for in the absence of appealing flavors offered by Juul.

Because of several loopholes left by the ban on flavored vaping products, Puff Bars are still allowed to produce this range of sweet and satisfying flavors.

Loopholes such as these are just one sign that bans and restrictions will not decrease the amount of young vape and e-cigarette users.

One of the reasons bans like these will never work is the fact that all addicting drugs in general are still used despite the legality behind them.

When someone is looking to get drunk, high or other types of restricted euphoria, laws and restrictions won’t stop them.

An example we can look to is marijuana use in the United States.

California was the first state that legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996. Then, in 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the United States.

However, young adults, teenagers and members of different counterculture movements used marijuana before the government even considered legalizing and decriminalizing the substance.

Marijuana is not a perfect comparison; although both marijuana and nicotine use can be abused, nicotine is a more addictive substance. As a result of a study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nicotine is listed as one of the top five most addictive substances, following cocaine, heroin and alcohol.

The addictive aspects of nicotine products cloud users’ judgements, not only in a haze of watermelon scent, but also with an adamant need, rather than want, to feel the buzzing relief of nicotine.

Another reason the ban was never going to work is the attitude of the generations that are reliant on nicotine.

Generation Z, born between the mid-90s and now, has an outlook on life like no other preceding generation.

With the impending doom of earth looming over their heads and a seemingly constant stream of mass shooting and tragedy, the youngest generations don’t really see any reason to stay healthy and live a long life.

Ending the e-cigarette trend would require changing an entire generation’s views on what actually matters. Right now, coping with stress and getting through the day is way more important to younger generations’ health. Not only can this be seen through nicotine use, but also the use of other drugs like caffeine, marijuana and alcohol.

Gen Z is the most stressed generation out of all adults, according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, as well as struggling with the most issues with mental health.

As a form of escapism, they turn towards all sorts of distractions to immerse themselves in, ranging from video games to overeating and exercise to substance abuse.

The euphoria associated with nicotine — as well as other addictive substances — gives people a form of relief and can even be seen as a reward for dealing with everything they have to deal with in a day.

There’s a reason young adults and teenagers don’t bat an eyelash when older generations warn them about the perils of nicotine use, and it’s because they don’t see much of a future worth surviving for.

As it is often said, “we’re here for a good time, not a long time.”

With an issue engrained in the social fabric of a generation’s outlook on life, legislation alone is not sufficient to bring about change. A holistic approach is needed.

Even though the Truth Initiative falls flat when making advertisements, they did one thing right. The nonprofit organization developed the first free program to help young adults and teenagers quit using e-cigarettes.

Students can have access to the advice provided by other former users and daily texts motivating them to stay clean when they text “DITCHJUUL” to 88709.

They can also have access to these constant updates and messages by becoming a member of their online program called “This is quitting.” Another similar and free online program that caters to smokers as well is called “BecomeAnEx.”

Programs like these are a step in the right direction and should be used as a model for the basis of future solutions for nicotine addiction; but they only help people who are already using or addicted rather than attacking the problem where it starts.

Educational programs should be created to help combat the spread of nicotine use. And no, the abomination our generation grew up with called the D.A.R.E. program is not a prime example. The D.A.R.E. program only instructed students how to say “no” to peer pressure to use drugs, and neglected to address what to do if “no” does not work.

Teaching children healthy coping mechanisms at a young age could prevent so much more than showing them slides of marijuana plants and forcing them to sign a contract claiming that they won’t use drugs.

The types of programs we propose would be more successful if they focused on students’ confidence, coping mechanisms and mental health.

If these educational programs focus more on the problems that lead teenagers and young adults to develop an unhealthy relationship with substances rather than the drugs themselves, they will be more successful.