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Don't ban all vaping

Anthony LoBello, 23, buys his vaping liquid products

Anthony LoBello, 23, buys his vaping liquid products at Paper Street Vapor Co. in Ronkonkoma Credit: Newsday/Lane Filler

When it comes to vaping as a method of nicotine delivery, we don't know much. The process could have limited health effects, but it might be that regular use claws enormous holes in our lungs or turns our spleens into nougat.

It's new. We're about 45 years away from knowing what problems 50 years of vaping will create.

But there are three things that are obvious:

  •  As nicotine methods go, vaping is almost certainly healthier than smoking cigarettes. Cigarettes, which kill about 50 percent of long-term users, are  17 times more deadly than attempting suicide, for which the mortality rate is only about 3 percent. 
  • Vaping likely isn't awesome for you, or as Paper Street Vapor Co. owner Brian Arthus  put it, "It's probably not as good for your lungs as air."
  • If we are actually going to ban the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored vape liquids to adults because we feel we cannot control the use of these products by minors, something has gone wrong with how we parent .

President Donald Trump has said he wants to ban mint-, fruit- and candy-flavored vape liquid, though he seems to be wavering, as is his custom. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has issued an order banning fruit- and candy-flavored vape liquid, but there's a temporary restraining order on that ban. Both Nassau and Suffolk counties are discussing bans.

The rationale is that the candy and fruit flavors are attractive to minors who don't smoke, for whom vaping has a lot of downside and no upside. The ominous backbeat behind those bans is a wave of at least six recent deaths and  more than 500 vaping-related illnesses across the nation, although those are reportedly from black-market products that contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

But if bans are put in place, it would be the first time a broad ban  is passed on a product many would agree should be legal for adults, just to keep it away from kids. Minors are not allowed to buy guns, cigarettes or booze. They sometimes get them anyway. But that has not led society to outlaw them for adults, nor should it.

Tuesday night, Arthus, hanging out in his spotless and homey business in a small strip mall on Veterans Memorial Highway in Ronkonkoma, said, "I think what people don't realize is this is an industry of 100,000 small business owners helping people quit smoking. I don't sell to minors, and I mostly sell the fruit and candy flavors to adults. This industry let me build a business and all of that will be gone if they ban these flavors."

Arthus, 32, was vaping a watermelon menthol liquid, and said he smoked Camels until he started vaping. Anthony LoBello, 23, was seated at a bar stool across the counter from Arthus vaping a liquid called Cinnaroo, a mixture of cinnamon and custard flavors. LoBello said he'd quit a Marlboro Red habit that cost him at least three times as much as the $25 to $35 a week he spends on liquid.

Both men said they find the tobacco-flavored vapes unappetizing, and so nastily reminiscent of cigarettes that they can increase the craving for one.

Arthus and his adult customers are likely better off vaping than smoking, and they should be able to use the flavors they prefer. Anyone caught selling the liquid or mechanisms to minors ought to be punished. But it is wrong to persecute adult vapers by banning their flavors because kids won't obey the law. That's why we've never done it with other products we want to keep from children.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday's editorial board.