Electronic cigarettes and vaporizing devices became available less than a decade ago, and have since grown into a multi-billion dollar industry despite a lack of data demonstrating their safety for consumers. Now, federal, state, and local governments are cracking down on the sales and use of these products, but the popularity of vaping suggests that this trend will continue upward despite restrictions.
Consumers of electronic cigarettes widely consider them to be a safer alternative to tobacco, and thus far there is no strong evidence that vaping is anywhere near as dangerous as traditional smoking. However, critics point out that vaping products haven't been around long enough for us to understand their long-term effects. Furthermore, they claim that e-cigarettes could serve as a gateway to tobacco products, particularly for young people exposed to e-cigarette advertising, which does not face the same restrictions as tobacco advertising.
Federal agencies like the FDA and CDC echo these concerns and this year both launched efforts to combat the growing practice of vaping. The FDA is expected to roll out new regulations for e-cigarettes in June 2015, and have proposed classifying them as tobacco products and regulating them similarly. In March, 2015, the CDC expanded its anti-smoking ad campaign to include e-cigarettes. Several states and municipalities have enacted their own bans on public vaping.
Opponents pin vaping with many of the same evils as tobacco, but a growing number of vapers claim the opposite -- vaping helps people quit smoking tobacco. There is also evidence that e-cigarette ventures by major tobacco companies are occupying less and less of the market. Wielding these arguments, the vaping industry and its advocates have directly challenged restrictions on vaping, part of a growing backlash against official control of a misunderstood practice.
As the battle over perception rages on, those in the business of selling electronic cigarettes are experiencing a boom. Aaron LoCascio, the founder and CEO of VapeWorld.com, a major online vaporizer retailer, says business has never been better. "I've never experience more growth than we are right now. Every single year, we're talking double to triple digit growth every year consistently," he told Huffington Post on the phone. VapeWorld currently carries more than 3000 vaping products and ships tens of thousands of orders per month. LoCascio is aware of the coming restrictions that could affect his business, but agrees that regulations are necessary. "We're still working through the nuances [of the FDA proposal]," he said, "But we support some form of regulation. Consumers deserve to be safe."
With that safety still in dispute, the market has resoundingly spoken in favor of electronic cigarettes. The $2.5 billion industry continues to grow, unhindered by any social, political, and business obstacles. 2015 will see a greater official effort to curb the prevalence of vaping, but those measures appear to be no match for the sheer popularity of these products.