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Cynthia Cabrera from the Contra Costa Times offers a great guest commentary on vaping: it’s not the same as tobacco and shouldn’t be treated
as such.

According to new information from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention confirm that vapor and e-cigarette products are causing
a reduction in the number of smokers. Research also reveals that vapor products
are considered to be 95 percent less harmful than smoking traditional tobacco
cigarettes and do not present a risk of exposure by cigarette’s toxic

The biggest issue facing vaping and e-cigarettes right now
is the amount of misinformation that is available. The California Medical
Association, California State Council of Service Employees, and American Lung
Association in California are trying to introduce a ballot initiative in 2016 to
classify vaping products as tobacco and to tax them as such.

Many states and cities are introducing taxes on vapor
products that are equivalent to that of their tobacco counterparts, the
so-called sin taxes. Vaping advocates are staunch in their standing that change
needs to be made regarding people’s perceptions and while no long-term data is
available due to the newness of vaping products, they do not produce the same
carcinogenic chemicals through combustion.

Because vapor products do not combust, they do not release
the 4,000 carcinogenic chemicals created when a traditional tobacco cigarette
is smoked. Vapor products are electric, and the heat produced from the battery
release vapor.

So why tax vaping products like tobacco products? These are
generally steep taxes to deter people from using tobacco products, but smokers
transitioning to vaping should be encouraged and not discouraged by sin taxes.
These ballot initiatives also overlook the effect that vaping has on public
health: a reduction in public harm caused by smoking. There is a strain on
healthcare systems caused by smokers. It is not only smokers that are harmed by
tobacco products, but the public at large due to second-hand smoke.

The American Cancer Society has already embraced vaping and
e-cigarettes, but Cynthia laments that there is a larger issue at hand: tobacco
companies are losing money when consumption rates fall and they have a strong
lobbying strategy at their disposal. She notes that California received $1.52
billion in taxes for 2014, but only 4.3% of that has gone to smoking prevention
and cessation programs.

Some of the revenue from these proposed initiatives would be
used to continue to fund tobacco-taxed programs.

California’s voters are a microcosm of the larger issue, to
most, there is no distinction between tobacco and vaping and both sides of the
coin (advocates for vaping and tobacco companies) are polarizing with the
information that is available.

No one can predict the future. It may turn out that there
are harmful side-effects of vaping, but they will not be nearly as devastating
as those from smoking. Currently, it is a battle of public opinion, with both
sides having their PR teams work overtime.

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