A Misplaced Moral Panic Over Teen Vaping

By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.

The moral crisis over vaping has hit the Oregon legislature. This week, the Oregon House held a hearing on HB 3090 which would ban flavored nicotine products such as cigarettes and vapes.

The bill’s supporters say that teen vaping is a nationwide crisis and that banning tasty flavors would be an effective way to stop kids from using the products.

They are wrong on both counts. 

The most recent data from the Oregon Health Authority reports that teen cigarette use is at all-time lows, with only 3% of 11th graders saying they had a cigarette in the past 30 days. Vape use among 11th graders is down nearly 5 percentage points from 2015. 

On the other hand, alcohol and marijuana use is out-of-control. More 11th graders use alcohol or marijuana than use vaping products. And, those who use alcohol or marijuana use it more frequently than vaping products. In fact, teens who use alcohol use it an average of 17 days a month—it’s not just a weekend thing anymore. 

Walk through a liquor store or cannabis retailer and you’ll see flavors that will make your mouth water. Yet, there’s no clamoring to ban Apple-tinis or bubble-gum flavored weed.

With Oregon’s young people dying of alcohol or drug use at alarming numbers, it’s shocking that the legislature is dedicating its scarce resources to ban the sale of a product that has helped many adults quit smoking.

Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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