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Expert: Vaping bans will escalate health crisis, not fix it

Could a vaping ban do more harm than good? (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

In early October, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced his intent to ban all flavored vaping products statewide. And while even more stringent vaping bans have picked up steam across the U.S., one expert claims that full-on prohibition could actually do more harm than good.

“The problem with bans and prohibitions in this country’s history is that it’s such an absolute rule, that there are then unregulatable products,” University of Washington and Washington State University’s Susan Collins told KIRO Radio’s Candy, Mike and Todd Show.

Collins is a professor of psychology at WSU, and the co-director of the Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Center at UW. While not speaking on behalf of either university, she underscored the importance of thinking twice about a ban on vaping products, in the wake of a rash of illnesses.

A case in favor of a Washington vaping ban (for now)

“We need to take a step back and in a calm, collected, methodical way, parse through the science, and understand what is involved in vaping behavior, and what parts of it can be made more safe,” she described.

Washington’s State Board of Health officially passed the state’s flavored vaping ban in mid-October. The ban is temporary and will last 120 days.

As sales at licensed vape shops have plummeted, Collins cites concerns over the potential damage an illegal market could have.

“It’s just the assumption that no one can use (vaping products), therefore there is no ability to control the safety of those products, and it’s completely left up to the illicit market or the black market to produce and to distribute those products,” she noted.

With some labeling illicit vaping products as the root cause of a health crisis that’s caused 13 deaths nationwide, Collins argues a ban could serve to escalate the problem, rather than solve it.

“Even though prohibition sounds like swift and well-intentioned action, it can actually lead to unintended consequences that create more of a public health crisis,” she said. “What we’ve seen in the history of this country is when (a ban) happens, the products that people end up using are more contaminated than they ever were when they were legal.”

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