Vaping bans are hurriedly being written into law across the United States. After alarming reports last fall of multiple hospitalizations that appear to be linked to vaping, many municipalities are taking extreme steps to make sure it does not happen to their youth. Cities and states are banning vaping products almost haphazardly, and without much evidence that they have identified the reason for the illnesses.
These laws are often excessively broad. In many cases they take beneficial products off the shelves, and just as often do nothing to address the real causes of hospitalizations. These bans are bad news and bad business.
The bans have a bad effect on individual legal businesses
Local businesses must, of course, follow the law. The responsibility for enforcement often falls on the business owner to read the law and implement it.
This is true no matter what the cost is to the business.
When the President announced an intent to ban certain flavors of vape juice and e-cigarette, he was reaching into the pockets of legitimate businesses.
These law-abiding startups, many of them months old, as the new technology spreads widely, are caught in expensive crossfire. They stand to lose business not just from the fruit flavored e-juice, but also from the associated purchases made by those who would typically buy the e-juice flavors.
And, as is always the case with cities or states, those customers can now easily drive to a neighboring community that has not banned the flavors. Their dollars, and the profits that had been sought by the new business, drive over the border with them.
These stores were already responsible for upholding the existing ban on underage smoking and vaping. Thus, we know there was no concern about revenue loss there. However, the associated sales from adults using those products will be missed.
Teen vapers, just like teen smokers, continue to depend on a network of friends and associates to buy these products for them and pass them along. The ban on vaping might make it slightly harder for them to get the products, but it is unlikely to end teen vaping entirely.
Here are examples of vaping bans being discussed in different
Here are examples of vaping bans being discussed in different states
San Francisco Vaping Ban
Vapers around the world enjoy vaping for a variety of reasons. The nicotine hit is part of the experience. Enjoying that without smoke in their lungs is another. A third attraction to vaping, and one that made it such an enjoyable way to quit smoking, was flavored vapes, especially fruity e-juice flavors.
However, these are the very flavors that San Franciscans chose to ban.
Bucking the trend of legislative or even executive-level bans, public opinion on a vaping van was built in to the process. On a ballot measure, the citizens of San Francisco voted to ban e-fruit vape flavors. These voters were rightly concerned about the appeal that these sweeter flavors hold for younger vapers. It is widely believed to be one of the attractions to underage vapers.
The San Francisco ban poses a concern for local vape shops.
They stand to lose business not just from the fruit flavored e-juice, but also from the associated purchases made by those who would typically buy the e-juice flavors. Those customers can now easily drive to a neighboring community that has not banned the flavors, taking profits with them.
These stores were responsible for upholding the existing ban on underage smoking and vaping, and so there was no concern about revenue loss there. However, the associated sales from adults using those products will be missed.
Teen vapers, just like teen smokers, continue to depend on a network of friends and associates to buy these products for them and pass them along. The ban on vaping might make it slightly harder for them to get the products, but it is unlikely to end teen vaping in San Francisco entirely.
Michigan vaping ban challenged in court, on hold
Michigan vapers might be right to be confused about their state’s vaping ban.
Following reports of illnesses in their state related to vaping, public officials scrambled to respond. In early September, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the forthcoming ban. The state legislature passed the ban effective October 2, 2019.
Almost immediately, local companies began to feel the hit.
One Michigan company, Clean Cigarette, immediately lost revenue and reports that it had to close multiple storefronts as a direct result of the ban.
Hearing this and other arguments, a judge temporarily halted the ban on October 15, less than two weeks after it had gone into effect.
The Michigan vaping ban was the first in the country, and was excessively broad. Instead of differentiating sweet flavors and targeting them, it banned all vape flavors. That is, rather than targeting flavors that might appeal to young vapers, they appear to have eliminated an entire product line that appeals to young and veteran vapers alike.
This is the kind of ban that can have negative health effects. Vapers who are using the product for cigarette cessation are often attracted to the flavors a vape pen can offer. Eliminating these choices, and leaving nicotine flavored vape products in their place, could cause some former smokers to return to cigarettes.
The Governor then asked the state supreme court to weigh in on the matter. However, they declined to lift the ban, choosing instead to let it work its way through the courts.
So, when does the vaping ban come into effect? Time will tell.
For now, Michigan does not have an active flavor vaping ban.
Massachusetts vaping ban
Massachusetts passed the most sweeping vaping bans in the country in November 2019.
Governor Charlie Baker, proclaiming that the federal government was not going to take action “anytime soon,” declared a four-month ban on all vaping products in September.
Then, when legislation was passed, it forced flavored vape products to only be sold in locations where the flavored vape juice would be consumed on-site. These vaping bars are restricted to adults only.
When the legislation was worked out, the temporary ban on all vaping products ended December 11, and the new restrictions became effective in January 2020.
Reaction to the ban was mixed. The American Lung Association applauded the ban, believing it would work to restrict vaping among youth, who were hit particularly hard by the illness.
Business owners, meanwhile, suggested that the biggest cheerleaders of the legislation were criminals. They argued that the black market vape pens and e-cig juice sellers would celebrate the new laws. Once again, restrictions on legal products did not end demand, it just shifted the work of supply underground to companies willing to dump illegal products on American markets.
Washington State vaping ban
The 120-day temporary vaping ban in Washington state was requested by Governor Jay Inslee and instituted by the State Board of Health in October 2019.
The emergency action was instituted to bridge the gap between the immediate health threat elected officials perceived, and the legal action of raising the vaping age to 21, which was slated to take effect in January.
The ban impacted nicotine and THC vaping products, and directly affected 4,000 e-cigarette businesses and another several hundred legal THC and cannabis dealers.
This was in response to 7 illnesses reported in Washington state, and the reporting of larger numbers across the country. The goal was to allow the legislature time to construct a more nuanced and appropriate approach to the concerns.
But the effect on businesses and users was immediate. Protestors filled the hearing of the Health Board, and interrupted proceedings with chants of “shame!” However, the conclusion remained the same and the ban was instituted.
One positive aspect of Washington’s efforts is to allow the state Liquor and Cannabis board to seize illegal products. A stronger approach to banning illegal vape pens and inferior products is likely the most productive step to take to reduce vaping among minors.
Interviewed state legislators seemed to lean toward a permanent ban on flavored products.
Get involved in preventing vaping bans
In September, 2019, in response to widespread reporting of mysterious illnesses, President Trump announced he would take immediate action. Along with his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, they introduced a small idea that had widespread implications.
In December they proposed a range of possible bans, and even admitted that they discussed banning vaping altogether. Though Trump eventually walked this threat back, and released a much weaker ban than the one he had initially proposed, it set a tone that made vaping seem like the bad guy. In fact, legal vaping with regulated products, even flavored vape juice, is not the cause of the health concern.
Nonetheless, Azar insists that flavored Vape juice was too tempting for young users. Thus, a widespread national ban on specific flavors of vape juice believed to appeal to younger vapers went into effect in January, 2020.
Did Trump ban vaping?
No, though his initial statements, and the hyperbole around them, suggested that he might.
The FDA vaping ban affects all sellers of vape juice. This includes legal, safe brands who worked closely with regulators to deliver a safe product, and whose vape pens and juices do not seem to be associated with the mysterious illnesses.
In fact, the legal business appears to be hurt the most. They will take top-selling, profitable brands off the shelves, and be left with the less popular nicotine flavors in their place. Meanwhile, counterfeiters and black market sellers will continue to sell inferior products and get them into the hands of whoever will buy them, including children.
Flavored vaping juices have existed for a long time. However there has recently been a spike in younger users. The origin of the spike then is not flavored vaping juices.
A more likely cause of the spike in vaping is a recent increase in the amount of nicotine delivered by certain devices. 5mg nicotine in low-priced Chinese vaping pens dumped on the American market are much more likely the cause of these concerns. The additive nicotine salt that is often delivered with these disposable Chinese vaping pens is another likely suspect. Arrival in the US correlates with a spike in younger users.
The President has come to see the potential hazard in these counterfeit vape pens. In September, while he was calling for a national ban on vaping that he quickly walked back, he tweeted this:
Who is behind these vaping bans?
Like the national announcements, local vaping bans are often backed by individual high profile politicians who want to make headlines.
Whether it is a local councilman, mayor, or governor, the vaping bans made great headlines. The nightly news showed alarming reports of teens hospitalized with a mysterious lung ailment. Then the local 11:00 news showcased a local politician offering a quick solution that seemed to address the problem.
This allowed local politicians to appear to have their finger on the pulse of a crisis. However, they were getting the science wrong. They didn’t have enough facts to make a good decision. And their rushed legislation was too broad, banned the wrong thing, and often failed to withstand scrutiny in court.
The flavor ban impacts every vaper
As discussed above there are serious economic ramifications in banning flavored Vape juices. In part this is because it damages the income of legitimate businesses. Also, we know that people moving to the black market will stumble across inferior products. These unsafe bootleg or counterfeit imported vape pens will cause more damage, and more hospitalizations. Worse yet, there will be no company to sue or hold accountable, and Americans will be left holding the bill for the vape pens AND for the medical treatment.
But there are serious health ramifications as well. By far the largest initial group of people using Vape pens where those looking to feed their nicotine addiction without all the harmful chemicals that are delivered in a cigarette. A large portion of these users found the pleasant fruit or candy flavored juices to be a pleasurable part of their efforts to quit smoking altogether.
By taking away these flavored options from people trying to quit smoking, it will make quitting harder for some. This has personal ramifications. It also impacts our national health rates and health costs.
Picture an individual vaper, one who tried for years to quit smoking. He preferred the sweeter flavors of the vape juice. However now he is forced to return to nicotine flavored Vape in. He will want to stay with vaping, but will he? Or, if there is no flavor difference or flavor incentive, will he return to his strong powerful cigarette addiction?
The media went crazy talking about vaping bans
It is easy to feel as if vaping is under attack. Special interest groups and average citizens who have long wanted to end vaping our season on this opportunity to attack all vaping. They are grouping all of the illnesses together and likewise they are concluding that all vaping is the culprit.
However it is not that simple. There is a lot to explain to the media and the public officials. There are differences between one oil cartridge and another, street-made THC oil, and the juice that is vaped in an e-cig.
People who vape know these differences because they are familiar with the product. However public officials and the media generally do not know these differences or these products. There are severe consequences for getting this information wrong. People have turned to vaping to reduce their chance of lung cancer, emphysema, or other known illnesses caused by smoking. These people might listen to the warnings issued by individuals who are not fully informed and decide that vaping poses a more immediate threat to their health. Returning to cigarettes is not the answer.
As discussed elsewhere in this article over two years there was a dramatic increase in the number of underage users. Evidence points to two culprits in this increase. First, there is the introduction of 5% or 50 mg salt nicotine. The immediate hit from this product is attractive to many young vapers. Another harder-to-control factor in underage use is dumping of counterfeit e-cigarettes in the market.
In addition to flavored vape juice the colorful and playful appearance of these black market e-cigarettes leads to their popularity among youth.
Asking legitimate e-cigarette companies to restrict their profit and change their offerings is not fair. It is counterfeit e-cigarettes that are causing the damage as far as we can tell.
Exploiting the tragic deaths and illnesses
Long-time enemies of vaping, including some tobacco companies who have yet to get into the vaping business, are exploiting the recent headlines to accomplish unrelated economic outcomes.
While the CDC has not released all of the information related to each of the cases they are investigating, simply reading the news points to a clear connection between the illnesses. A particular additive appears to be the culprit. Vitamin E acetate is a common additive found in the vape products used by many of the hospitalized youth.
Additionally, this additive is found primarily in either black-market vape pens, or black market vape juices. It can also be found in homemade vape juices. It is added to allow the vape juice to be spread a little thinner and thus to last longer. It also is claimed to reduce residue on the vape pen itself.
Understanding the science behind the illnesses, and directly addressing specific compounds and components, is a far more reasonable way to address the illnesses and keep vapers safe.
Exploiting the illnesses to take out an entire class of products, or a full industry, is wrongheaded. Doing this will ultimately contribute to more dangerous situation, as businesses are pushed underground and away from the light of regulation.
What can we do to prevent vaping bans?
We are not powerless to address vaping bans. There are many steps we can take and approaches to addressing these bans.
·You can fill out this petition on the White House website to petition President Trump to roll back the ban: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-donald-trump-signing-federal-flavor-ban-e-cig-products
·Share this article with friends to get them the information and to act to eliminate the bans
·Email or call your House representative. You can locate their information here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
·Email or call your Senator. You can locate their information here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
·You can share information on social media and tag your Representative and Senator. This includes Twitter, Facebook, and other social media where your representative might be present. Amplifying the voice of activists helps to give them political juice to get attention and get things done.
When you take one or more of these steps, remember to be courteous and to express your opinion clearly. Back your information up with facts as well. But above all be clear: you vote, and this issue matters to you.
Your message is especially powerful if you not only have an opinion but if you are a vaper yourself. Your personal story of how you came to vaping is important. Explaining why this issue matters for you and for your health can go a long way in convincing a Representative or Senator to change their mind.