Illinois state congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D – Schaumburg) wants a nicotine limit for e-cigarettes. This is the most recent attempt to limit youth vaping and regulate the e-cigarette industry as fears of vaping-related lung injuries or illnesses grow.

The new federal legislation called the END ENDS Act (the Ending Nicotine Dependence from Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Act) would limit nicotine levels in Juul-style liquid pods to 20 milligrams per milliliter.

Nicotine levels in these kinds of vapes vary somewhat. However, Juul’s usually have about three times as much—around the nicotine-per-puff ratio you would find in a pack of cigarettes.

Since 2015, JUUL has had a 5.0 percent nicotine strength product on the market. They also have lower strength products like this on offer.

Other products with higher percentages have also become available, along with various technologies that enhance nicotine delivery. This is the target of the legislative cap.

The proposed nicotine limit models the approach taken in the EU, Israel, and UK, which already have similar limits in place. These regions have also observed more limited youth use of e-cigarettes.

“My bill presents a common-sense solution that has already shown success abroad. Capping the concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes is integral to ending the youth vaping epidemic by making these products less addictive, less appealing to youth and less harmful to public health,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement. “After all, while flavors hook kids, it’s nicotine that nets them and pulls them on the boat into a lifelong vaping habit and addiction.”

An alternative to an outright vape ban, the nicotine limit bill also would enable the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keep lowering the nicotine levels to assist adult smokers who are quitting.

On the other hand, this approach does not address what appears to be causing many of the current problems: black market THC products.

Nicotine limit: a less harmful compromise?

Harm reduction experts worry that vape bans will push former smokers back to combustible cigarettes—proven killers. But the idea that vaping nicotine products is just as dangerous as smoking them is false.

Combustible cigarettes cause lung disease, cancer, and stroke. They are directly proven to cause 480,000 deaths in the US every year. Vaping e-cigarettes doesn’t cause that kind of harm, even now.

Most experts agree a dearth of high-quality research is helping to drive the current crisis, regardless of their conclusions. Countries that cautiously embrace and regulate vaping as part of a public health/harm reduction approach to managing tobacco use see less youth vaping.

It seems the current regulatory system for e-cigarettes may be failing. But an outright ban is likely to cause an even more serious public health problem for people addicted to nicotine.

Over the four week period ending September 22, 2019, sales of e-cigarettes in the US dropped by 11 percent. It is extremely unlikely that all of those people spontaneously quit all nicotine.

The FDA’s new review process for e-cigarettes will begin in May 2020. It is unclear which brands, if any, will survive the review.

Supposedly only products that offer a “net benefit” to the public health of Americans will remain. This standard seems impossible for most vape shops to define, let alone meet.

Meanwhile, the FDA has authorized the sale of IQOS, a sort of heat-not-burn device for tobacco. Developed by Big Tobacco giant Phillip Morris International, IQOS indicates that the same big players will dominate the industry with the help of the FDA. Altria, who is also Juul’s biggest investor, will be selling IQOS in the US.