Opinion Columns & Blogs

Vaping bill rightly targets teens, but also wrongly limits marketing to adults

The day I turned 18 years old, I went to the local gas station and purchased my first pack of cigarettes. I quickly went from smoking multiple cigarettes a day to smoking two full packs a day. There were several times in my early 20s that I tried to quit smoking, but was unable to break the habit.

My life was changed forever six years ago when I was introduced to vaping. Vaping is the only reason I was able to break myself from the grip cigarettes had on my life, and I know for certain it has also helped many others quit smoking here in the Central Valley and all over California. So why is the state Legislature unfairly targeting a technology that has helped hundreds of thousands of smokers and former smokers quit?

Special to the Sun-Star Contributed

AB 1639 (Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced) is being painted as anti-teen vaping legislation—and I strongly agree, minors should never vape. But, the provisions in 1639, no matter how well intending, do much to harm adult consumers who rely on vapor products as a smoking alternative. This legislation essentially imposes a de facto advertising ban on all vapor products. If vapor products cannot be marketed, how will the 70% of adult smokers who are trying to quit smoking find out about this life-saving technology?

In addition, AB 1639 proposes harsh fines and penalties that do not match any other age-restricted products. In fact, these provisions completely remove any responsibility from under 21 consumers trying to purchase vapor products and place 100% of the penalty on the business. Individuals below the age of 21 who attempt to purchase vaping products will not be penalized if caught, but business owners will have their licenses suspended after the first violation. These provisions go farther than any other age-restricted product; it should not be easier for an underage consumer to purchase alcohol or cannabis than it is vapor products.

This legislation is of huge concern to me and others in the vaping community. Bottom line, vaping products are a healthier alternative for individuals like me who have stopped smoking or want to stop smoking to live healthier lives. A study from the Georgetown University Medical Center concluded that switching from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes would annually prevent between 1.6 million and 6.6 million premature deaths in the United States. Even the Centers for Disease Control has reported there has been a drop in the number of U.S. smokers from 20.6% in 2009 to 15.5% in 2016.

Our legislators have good intentions in trying to make sure that vaping products don’t get in the hands of our children. We can all agree that these products should be regulated, but it cannot be at the cost of adults who have found a successful way to quit smoking.

Nicholas DeOrnelas, a former smoker, is a Merced resident and a weld and metal integrity inspector for refineries and oil fields.