Let's get right to the point: Democrats are blowing it on vaping, aka e-cigarettes. There is as we speak a full-scale assault going on against what may be the best tobacco harm reduction tool ever invented. The war has been developing for a while and recently has kicked into high gear, and the most troubling thing is it's being perpetrated mostly by Democrats, against their own philosophies, goals, and political interests.
The science is pouring in on this and if Democrats aren't careful, they will end up tagged as seriously malfeasant, and in the meantime they are hurting many of their own supporters, to the point of literally threatening their lives and health.
As with much of what happens in politics these days, there is a corporate driver to this crusade against the people -- big pharma. Working through purchased politicians and funded public interest medical groups such as the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, pharmaceutical companies stand to gain tremendously by fighting the adoption of vaping via legislation. Smoking cessation and nicotine-replacement drugs are big business -- they don't work very well, so they get plenty of bites at the apple for each continuing smoker.
In cities, counties and municipalities across the nation, as well as at the national level via the FDA and public statements by federal politicians, governments are moving to regulate e-cigarettes as regular tobacco, ban vaping the same way as smoking, and tax e-cigarettes, e-juice and vaping products at onerous sin-tax levels.
The problem is there's no justification at all for any of it. The ingredients of e-liquids are almost entirely edible, nontoxic and GRAS -- glycerine, propylene glycol, and artificial food flavorings. Nicotine is added as a pharmaceutical-quality, refined ingredient -- and only optionally. Vaping because of its mechanism of action does not generate tar or other byproducts of burning plant matter. The thousands of toxins present in cigarette smoke, including all carcinogens, are not present in e-liquid vapor.
On the public health front, studies have shown vaping to be as effective or more than any other smoking cessation method. Anecdotally, people are finding it wildly more effective, with stories upon stories abounding of people quitting multi-decade tobacco habits.
On the economic front, allowing business and organizations to allow vaping allows them to make decisions that may be beneficial to their business models. The lack of secondhand effects eliminates the original justification for smoking bans. The vaping industry, which at this point is worth over $1B, is somewhat unique in that it has formed from "bottom up" from small businesses -- the original invention was made overseas and small importers brought it in, and most vaping companies started out as small distributorships or manufacturing businesses. Big business has only recently become involved, as the threat to established business paradigms has become apparent.
On the social front, the moralistic tone of anti-tobacco efforts are the primary wrapper for anti-vaping efforts. A large stake is being placed on the concept of "denormalization" of smoking, that is the movement of tobacco smoking into socially unacceptable status. Vaping, opponents claim, looks like smoking so it would make children (it's always about the kids, right?) want to take up smoking. But recently increasing use of vapor products, including among teens, correlates with a reduction in teen smoking over the same years.
Control efforts have always alienated people who choose to use these otherwise legal products. Such infringement on choice has always carried the authority of prevention of actual harm. In the absence of such harm, the vaping debate is an opportunity for parties who are often viewed as imperious to counter that appearance by staking out evidence-based positions rather than taking effectively moralistic positions. It's no secret Democrats could stand to benefit from this.
All together, this amounts to a gigantic political and ideological misstep on the part of the Democrats, and they are making a ton of enemies when they should be making constituents. Democrats have always been the party that supports harm reduction. It's not an exaggeration to say that this may be one of the greatest public health advancements in modern times, and Democrats are at huge risk of not only missing the boat, but sinking it.
I had intentions of writing this up as a huge research piece but frankly it's more important to get it out and start the discussion. Here are a few links to research and analysis, I may update this post later with more research and evidence.
EDIT 2/15: Another user made me aware of a recent, comprehensive, peer-reviewed study on ecig safety. http://ecigarette-research.com/...
Excerpts from the conclusion, emphases mine:
Existing evidence indicates that EC use is by far a less harmful alternative to smoking. There is no tobacco and no combustion involved in EC use; therefore, regular vapers may avoid several harmful toxic chemicals that are typically present in the smoke of tobacco cigarettes. Indeed, some toxic chemicals are released in the EC vapor as well, but their levels are substantially lower compared with tobacco smoke, and in some cases (such as nitrosamines) are comparable with the amounts found in pharmaceutical nicotine products.
Surveys, clinical, chemistry and toxicology data have often been mispresented or misinterpreted by health authorities and tobacco regulators, in such a way that the potential for harmful consequences of EC use has been largely exaggerated [Polosa and Caponnetto, 2013]. It is obvious that some residual risk associated with EC use may be present, but this is probably trivial compared with the devastating consequences of smoking. Moreover, ECs are recommended to smokers or former smokers only, as a substitute for conventional cigarettes or to prevent smoking relapse; thus, any risk should be estimated relative to the risk of continuing or relapsing back to smoking and the low efficacy of currently approved medications for smoking cessation should be taken into consideration [Moore et al. 2009; Rigotti et al. 2010; Yudkin et al. 2003].
However, any regulatory decisions should not compromise the variability of choices for consumers and should make sure that ECs are more easily accessible compared with their main competitor, the tobacco cigarette. Consumers deserve, and should make, informed decisions and research will definitely promote this. In particular, current data on safety evaluation and risk assessment of ECs is sufficient enough to avert restrictive regulatory measures as a consequence of an irrational application of the precautionary principle [Saitta et al. 2014].
ECs are a revolutionary product in tobacco harm reduction. Although they emit vapor, which resembles smoke, there is literally no fire (combustion) and no ‘fire’ (suspicion or evidence that they may be the cause for disease in a similar way to tobacco cigarettes). Due to their unique characteristics, ECs represent a historical opportunity to save millions of lives and significantly reduce the burden of smoking-related diseases worldwide.