When it comes to government regulation, it’s sometimes hard to get the details right, according to Steven Greenhut in an opinion hew wrote for InsideSources. He says that the Utah Department of Public Health’s proposed new rules that would reduce the amount of nicotine that sellers and manufacturers can include in their “closed-system” electronic cigarettes derail harm reduction efforts.
Two years ago, the agency adopted a compromise that capped the amount of nicotine in closed vaping products at 5 percent. That 2019 rule attempted to protect consumers from the over-consumption of nicotine. But the 5 percent cap still enabled vape users to consume a sufficient amount of nicotine to satisfy their cravings. However, the newly proposed regulation would reduce the nicotine cap to 3 percent.
Greenhut states that the proposed rules could make consumers vape more than they do now, switch to open systems that allow the use of higher-nicotine liquids or even mix their own e-liquid recipes, raising a host of troubling health concerns. Some might even return to cigarette smoking.
“Regulators, at the behest of anti-smoking activists, are missing the forest for the trees—or at least overlooking the 7,000 carcinogenic chemicals that make traditional cigarette smoking so detrimental while focusing on one highly addictive but not particularly dangerous substance,” he states. “Many public-health advocates take a zero-tolerance approach toward anything tobacco or nicotine-related. They seek to ban—or overly regulate—e-cigarettes as a means to reduce availability. Their goal is abstinence, although they often support the use of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved smoking-cessation products, such as patches and gum, that contain some nicotine.”
In their zeal to quash the use of vape and other lower-risk nicotine products, health advocates are endangering public health, explains Greenhut. “One needn’t be a health expert to realize that if nicotine-addicted people can’t get enough nicotine to fulfill their needs, they will try alternatives,” he states. “Utah already adopted a defensible approach to nicotine regulation. Maybe now, the best approach is to leave well enough alone.”
Steven Greenhut is Western Region director for the R Street Institute.