A man vaping with an e-cigarette. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Proposals to ban either flavored vapor products or vapor products entirely are cropping up throughout our state and nation. The city of El Cajon announced two weeks ago they are considering a ban on all vaping products. If the proposed ban is approved, it would take effect beginning Oct. 8, impacting many individuals like me who rely on vaping products to prevent us from returning to smoking harmful cigarettes.

This proposed ban, along with the many similar proposals to ban flavored vapor products and e-cigarettes, would undermine a healthier alternative to smoking. It would give big tobacco the upper hand as cigarettes would not face these same tough regulations and bans.

As a parent myself, I agree that kids should not have access to vaping products and that strict regulations must be in place that protect them. However, banning these products and the various flavored versions is not the solution to combating this problem.

My dad smoked for over 50 years, and I began smoking in my early 20s. I started off with a couple cigarettes a day, which quickly escalated to a pack a day. It wasn’t until my dad developed emphysema that I began to realize my own health was deteriorating. It started with difficulty breathing and grew into constant coughing.

I realized that if I didn’t quit smoking soon, it would take a toll on my health, and I did not want to end up like my dad. In my attempts to quit smoking, I tried everything from nicotine-replacement patches to pills, but I always ended up with extreme withdrawal symptoms and would go back to smoking.

After many failed attempts at quitting, my sister introduced me to vaping. It is no exaggeration for me to say that it was life changing. I was surprised that I was able to quit cigarettes cold turkey with the help of vaping products. I was able to fulfill my craving for cigarettes without the major health risks that they cause.

Ten years later, I have been able to remain smoke free and my health has noticeably improved as I no longer have that terrible smoker’s cough or difficulty breathing. I credit the improvement in my health to vaping. I know for a fact that it has not only has helped me, but many other individuals who are also trying to quit smoking.

The Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged that nicotine “is most harmful when delivered through combustible tobacco products.” For me, vaping products therefore are a safer and healthier alternative as they do not release the toxins caused by burning tobacco that lead to lung cancer and other diseases. Even the American Cancer Society considers them to be “significantly less harmful” because they do not burn tobacco.

I strongly urge local and state elected officials to meet with consumers like me along with vaping business owners to understand the magnitude of the decision at hand and to gain a better understanding of how banning vaping products would be detrimental to our health. Banning these products would significantly and negatively impact my life, and thousands of other lives across California.

I certainly do not want to go back to smoking cigarettes. I fear that if bans on vapor products become widespread, I will not only go back to cigarettes, but will end up with the same health problems that my dad has.

No one disagrees that these products should not be accessible to kids, but we cannot rush to ban them. We must work together toward a common-sense approach that increases regulation of these products, protects our children, and also protects the rights of consumers.

Bob Bridges is a San Diego resident who has switched from smoking cigarettes to using vaping products because of health concerns.

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