When it comes to smoking, there are two universal truths. First, smoking is really bad for you. And, second, it’s really hard to quit.

America has been making progress. Tobacco cigarette use has been on the decline. Nationwide, the proportion of adults who smoke fell from 20.9 percent in 2004 to 16.8 percent in 2014.

Still, when it comes to kicking the smoking habit, people need all the help they can get.

One surprising aid to quitting has been the rise of vaping. So-called e-cigarettes deliver the taste and feel of a tobacco cigarette, but without the tar, smoke and carcinogens.

As with nicotine gum or the patch, e-cigarettes can be a way for a person to meet their need for nicotine in a way that is far healthier both for themselves and others.

E-cigarettes have already helped millions stop smoking. Recent research in Great Britain found the majority of the nation’s 2.3 million e-cigarette users used vaping as a substitute for smoking.

Currently, New Mexico has a positive environment for vaping.

R Street last month released a report ranking America’s largest cities in terms of vapor product regulation. Albuquerque receives an A grade in the report, putting it among the top cities on that score.

But while the current environment for vaping is sunny, there are storm clouds on the horizon.

Proposed legislation would add vapor products to the New Mexico Clean Indoor Air Act, which would treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco and restrict their use in some way almost everywhere. Legislators have also called for a 66 percent tax on all vapor products. While these efforts have so far been unsuccessful, there is real danger that overregulation could snuff out the growing move from cigarettes to vaping.

Proposals to restrict vaping are typically based on the same public health rationale as restrictions on tobacco use. But, while vaping may not be perfectly safe (nothing is), the risks involved pale in comparison to those that come from smoking.

From a public health standpoint, treating vaping and smoking the same makes little sense.

Alas, from a political standpoint, there is a certain logic behind the push to regulate vaping out of existence. In fact, state and local governments often paradoxically have an incentive to discourage people from quitting smoking.

Because they rely on the tax revenue from cigarettes, declines in cigarette smoking mean a fall in available government funds.

Government shouldn’t let its own desire for tax revenue cloud its judgment on such an important matter. Instead of drawing the arbitrary and unscientific conclusion that cigarettes and vapor products are the same, public officials should consider that the best policies treat vapor products proportionally to their health impacts.

Image by turtix

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