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Regulators should not snuff out vaping industry

 |  September 29, 2019

By The Editorial Board

Makers and users of e-cigarettes have had a turbulent few weeks. A spate of illnesses have been linked to vaping, with at least 12 deaths reported. US president Donald Trump called for a ban on flavoured vapes amid concerns over teenage addiction to nicotine. The growing regulatory threat to e-cigarettes prompted Philip Morris International to call off talks on a $200bn merger with Altria, and saw the vaping company Juul sack its chief executive and suspend US advertising.

There are reasons to be wary of vaping. It has become worryingly common in schools in the US, and more trials are needed to assess long-term health effects. Yet as a tool to reduce rates of smoking, e-cigarettes offer clear benefits. A regulatory scalpel based firmly on science is needed to deal with the risks surrounding e-cigarettes — not a sledgehammer guided by public fear.

The deaths and illnesses linked to e-cigarettes are disturbing, but it is unclear whether they stemmed from chemicals added by users or third parties rather than manufacturers’ products themselves. Researchers have repeatedly shown traditional cigarettes are far more dangerous. Clinical trials also found that in concert with expert support, vaping could help smokers to quit. This is no small benefit: even in 2017, nearly 80,000 deaths in the UK were attributed to smoking.

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