In their ongoing campaign against vapor products in general, some U.S. lawmakers have chosen a new, specific target: vapor hardware which they claim is “disguised” as other kinds of consumer electronics.
According to Senator Richard Blumenthal (D, CT):
“These camouflaged, disguised devices have one purpose, to conceal addiction.”
NBC lists the forms of disguised vapor hardware as including, “…pens, thumb drives, phone cases, backpacks and sweatshirts,” but prominently displays the Uwell Amulet, a pod system contained in a case resembling a wristwatch, complete with watch band.
The only known phone case with this capability, at present, is the VapeCase. The VapeCase, however, not only failed to disguise its dual nature, but was also an IndieGogo startup which failed to achieve its funding goal before closure. As for backpacks and sweatshirts, regrettably, there is a brand — VAPRWEAR — which does produce such products.
While we emphatically assert that under no circumstances should minors break either U.S. or Canadian law by the act of underage vaping, the legal soundness of banning sweatshirts and backpacks merely due to their connection to vapor products seems questionable.
No less troubling is the rationale behind pushing for a ban on this product subcategory. According to Barbara Walsh, Connecticut Department of Public Health, Supervisor of Tobacco Control Program:
“We have this industry that’s been created just to do what teenagers love to do most, hide things from their parents and teachers.”
Embedded in Ms. Walsh’s complaint is the admission that, indeed, the behavior enabled by these products is generations old, to say the least, and endemic to the condition of adolescence itself.
Principal of Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut, Dave Eustis commented on the Uwell Amulet:
“It looks like a normal watch. The face comes off and now the device is on the face and they can smoke or inhale from that.”
Added Xavier High School Dean of Students Nick Cerreta:
“If they’re making all these devices up, they’re marketing to kids so the kids can hide them and get away with it. If you’re an adult you’re not using these types of devices.”
While this assertion may seem overly broad, it’s not exactly puzzling. VAPRWEAR’s “how it works” makes it quite evident that the purpose of their products is to enable stealth vaping, which many vapers see as unethical (vapers violating an establishment’s prohibition of vaping on their premises) even when not illegal (underage vaping.)
But, as always, enforcement of existing age restrictions at points of sale remains far preferable to bans on products. Even if products such as the Uwell Amulet and VAPRWEAR’s line of merchandise are banned, teenagers will continue to break the law by “stealth vaping” anyway. Only through firm enforcement of existing law and attentive parental guidance will the campaign against illicit use see its best measure of success.