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The Sept. 29 issue of the Journal Star contained an editorial cartoon insinuating that vaping is as unhealthy as cigarettes and that vape businesses are only in it to make a quick buck.

This is simply not true. It is irresponsible to publish such false claims, so I would like to set the record straight.

Cigarettes kill 480,000 people each year. Vaping has helped millions quit smoking cigarettes. In the 12 years vapor products have been on the market, there have been zero deaths solely from vaping nicotine products. Nearly all respiratory illnesses and deaths that the Journal Star and others have reported recently are because of tainted black-market THC cartridges.

This was confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, both public health authorities advise those who have used vapor products to continue use and not return to smoking deadly cigarettes. The New England Journal of Medicine found that 84% of those with respiratory illness had used black-market THC vapor products. The journal also acknowledged that some were incapacitated or may not want to admit to using illicit drugs.

Furthermore, the FDA told state officials two weeks ago that lab tests found nothing unusual in nicotine vape products which were collected from sick patients. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, confirms the illnesses and deaths around the country “do not appear to be from legally sold vapes.” Other state and federal health authorities have stated they are focusing on counterfeit THC substances as the likely cause of these respiratory illnesses.

In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians published research showing that vaping is at least 95% healthier than smoking, delivering nicotine in a much safer, non-carcinogenic way. After all, it is not nicotine that kills people; it is the tar and carcinogens in smoke that kill people. Despite its highly addictive nature, nicotine on its own is relatively harmless – no worse than caffeine, according to the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom.

Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians and Cancer Research UK all endorse vaping as an effective smoking cessation aid. So much so, that they have opened vapor stores inside hospitals in England and encourage the public to use vapor products to quit smoking.

A study published in January in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms that vaping is nearly twice as effective at helping smokers quit than all other nicotine replacement therapy products combined; this includes nicotine gum, lozenges and patches, as well as pharmaceutical drugs. The reason is that vaping mimics the physical act of smoking and allows users to taper down the amount of nicotine used gradually until they are able to stop completely.

Although there are two large players in the vape industry, Juul and Phillip Morris, the majority of the market is made up of more than 10,000 small, independent vape shops who sell products from smaller manufacturers or make their own flavored e-liquids. Most entered the vape industry not for the money, but to truly help people stop smoking. Many had either suffered the health effects of smoking themselves or had loved ones that did.

For instance, I watched my grandmother die from lung cancer when I was only 15 years old. And, my father almost died from blood clots and COPD caused by smoking traditional cigarettes. In the six years I’ve been in business, I have been able to help tens of thousands of Nebraskans quit smoking, including my sister and mom.

So, is it about the money? Possibly for Juul and Phillip Morris, but these large corporations make up a very small part of the vape industry, and independent retailers, like me, shouldn’t be judged by their actions. Most of us just want to save lives.

Unfortunately, uninformed cartoons like the one in last Sunday’s paper only scare people into returning to smoking traditional cigarettes, which have killed millions.

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Sarah Linden is president of the Nebraska Vape Vendors Association and CEO of Generation V vape shops. She lives in Lincoln.

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