Heartland Institute Panel: Vaping as a Public Policy ‘War’

Published May 2, 2016

Public Health England in August of 2015 became the first national government agency to endorse e-cigarettes as safer options for current smokers. Its report also dispelled several bogus anti-tobacco claims. Why is it that e-cigarettes are seen as life-savers by the UK Government, but condemned by the US? Find out why by checking this April 13 article.

Brian Fojtik, guest speaker at The Heartland Institute’s event about “The Vaping War” on April 20 (watch above and see Part 1 of this post), linked the “war” on vaping to 52 years ago when the Surgeon General recognized tobacco as a health hazard — and the avalanche of anti-smoking programs ever since. Even though many e-cig users begin vaping to wean themselves off tobacco products, why do e-cigarette smokers reap the same hatred from the non-smoking public as those who smoke tobacco cigarettes? Might it be because people are taught not only to hate cigarettes, but also to hate those who once smoked them? Does it not matter that tobacco smokers are transitioning to products that are safer for them and everyone around them? Apparently not.

Vaping as a Consumer-Driven Business

More and more individuals desire a safe and effective smoking cessation aid — so it is no wonder that the number of consumer driven vapor shops are growing to (currently) 15,000 vapor shops in the US.  These are all relatively new businesses; people are employed and property taxes are paid. When there are people who want something, products are offered as a solution to the problem. This is the free market at work. Regulations and taxes only inhibit innovation in a free market system — but regulations and taxes are coming fast.

Pharmaceutical companies continually come up with new products to help people stop smoking, but each new product must receive FDA approval, which requires an expensive and lengthy process to market a new product. This is no huge hurdle for Big Pharma. But the vaping industry is just getting started, and cannot afford to jump through FDA hoops and have each vaping product approved by the FDA — which is why it is important to limit the FDA’s authority in vaping. As the law kinda stands now, every different vaping flavor would require new FDA approval at a great cost and with considerable approval time.

Fortunately, the vaping industry enjoyed a bit of a victory on April 14 when the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve an amendment to the FY 2017 Agricultural Appropriations bill that would change the predicate date for “newly deemed” tobacco products. Under previous FDA regulations, vaping products on the market since 2007 would be essentially “newly deemed” — essentially making the entire vaping industry illegal. Thankfully, that is not the case — as long as President Obama signs the current Agriculture Appropriations Bill. 

Victoria Vasconcello, former long-time smoker and owner of Cignot Inc.

As already noted in Part 1, Ms. Vasconcello — who spoke at the Heartland vaping event — is a former long-time smoker who has been in the vaping business since 2009.  She considers vaping a consumer-driven solution to a problem, i.e. people who want to stop smoking cigarettes.

In response to a question from the audience about what what the vaping community can do to help, Vasconcello suggested vapers should join the 135,000 member CASAAand contact local legislators to inform them about the issue. The science is out there to support the use of e-cigarettes, she said (paraphrasing). Help legislators know what the science is. Genuine fear develops from not knowing the truth. Finally, at long last, smokers have found something that helps them quit cigarettes, and they are standing up and fighting with truth on their side. Consumers do have power!

Concluding Thoughts

Support for the vaping community can be broadened by minimizing the arguments of center-left groups.  Unfortunately, PR hasn’t been on the side of e-cigarettes to enable them to become mainstream — unlike in England where the government backs e-cigarettes for smokers. There is limited money in the vaping community to get out the truth. This results in most of the studies being done by those who hold positions against e-cigarettes. The minds of the American people must be changed. A new poll finds that Americans’ Risk Perception of Vaping is All Wrong. There is work to do.

Working against the case of vaping is the fact that government is addicted to the money it receives from tobacco products. This money is decreasing as smoking decreases, so governments want to tax e-cigarettes to keep the “tobacco coffers” filled. The good news: 500 pieces of legislation have tried to tax or restrict vaping in recent years, but only a few  have passed. Writing letters to the editor of your local paper are an old-school way to go, but is a good way to educate the public about e-cigarettes.  

E-Cigs in Chicago

Below are three articles that show how Chicago is dealing with e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette tax referred to in the first article went into effect on January 1, 2016. 

Chicago’s Deadly E-Cigarette Tax Takes Effect Tomorrow

Chicago Vaping Tax is About Cigarette Tax Dollars, Not Health

Rahm Emanuel’s E-Cig Tax Will Kill Smokers & Small Businesses

The following are additional note-worthy e-cigarette articles:

Articles by Brad Radu, Heartland’s Senior Fellow who holds the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville.

This Wall Street Journal article published on April 11, 2016

The article “Are E-Cigarettes a Healthy Way to Quit Smoking?” presents both sides of the vaping debate. Even though use e-cigarette sales have been growing, they remain dwarfed by the $100 billion tobacco market. 

See the full video of The Heartland Institute’s Vaping Event here. And see Part 1 of my recap of the issues talked about at that event here.