Vaping is one of the biggest new fads out there, and this is exactly what makes it so worrisome. Originally intended to be a less-dangerous alternative for cigarette smokers, vaping and e-cigarettes have spread to non-smokers across the country, and have even begun to take root in high schools and middle schools. It is for this reason that Democratic views on vaping and e-cigarettes are so heavy-handed; they fear that if we don’t regulate the industry properly, we could have a health crisis on our hands. This discrepancy is at the heart of the vaping and e-cigarette debate. Republicans see vaping as a healthier alternative for smokers, which is saving lives. Democrats see it as a ploy to keep people addicted and draw in new users who otherwise would not have smoked cigarettes, especially children. Overall, Democrats support heavy regulation of the vaping industry, with FDA review of all products going on the market. While this seems logical, they have faced much criticism regarding the discrepancy between the regulations they’re putting on vaping and the regulations put on big tobacco.
While the FDA has been battling for stricter regulations of vaping since 2009, it became more of a partisan issue in 2015. The FDA’s power over tobacco manufacturers comes via the Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009. However, the plan grandfathers in any product on the marker prior to February 15, 2007. This means any product on the market prior to that date does not need FDA review. As e-cigarettes rose to prominence, the FDA began the fight to categorize them as a tobacco product. Since most e-cigarettes didn’t exist in US markets before the grandfather date, this classification would mean the manufacturers would have to file a “retroactive premarket application” to get FDA approval to continue selling their products. In 2015, the Republicans began a campaign to move this date to allow vaping to fall under the grandfather clause as well. Democrats won the fight in the end, and this specific proposal has popped up again and again over the years. Through these regulations, the FDA demands that tobacco applicants must not only demonstrate that their product is safe, they must show how it’s “beneficial to the population as a whole.”
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids praised Democrats’ efforts in this capacity, stating, “By rejecting these special-interest giveaways to tobacco companies, this agreement preserves the FDA’s ability to protect kids from the huge assortment of candy-flavored e-cigarettes and cigars that have flooded the market in recent years and threaten to addict a new generation.”
In summer 2017, Democrats introduced a proposal to amend New York’s Indoor Clean Air Act to include electronic cigarettes in addition to traditional cigarettes, placing limitations on where they can be used. The legislation expands the state ban on vaping in certain areas to include restaurants, bars, offices and any other public, indoor space.
In late 2017, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and his chief deputy Dick Durbin both urged FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to move ahead with FDA regulations that had recently been put on hold and introduced a bill that would tax e-cigarettes in the same way as regular cigarettes. The most controversial aspect of this motion has been its perceived message to the public. While it tells teens and non-smokers this is not a safe product, it also implies to smokers that it is just as dangerous as normal cigarettes, and may deter them from switching from cigarettes to vaping. Schumer, Durbin, and their supporters argue that the messaging is explicitly aimed at preventing minors from trying these products, while Republicans and other pro-vapers argue that the taxes should be relative to the overall risks of a product.
Surgeon General’s Report
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared vaping a potential threat to public health in late 2016. However, there was some controversy regarding the methods of his research and the validity of his findings. In late 2017, Public Health experts Dr. Riccardo Polosa, Dr. Christopher Russell, Dr. Joel Nitzkin and Dr. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos, released a study that re-examined Murthy’s findings. The study stated, “Most of the evidence presented in the Surgeon General’s discussion of nicotine harm is not applicable to e-cigarette use, because it relies almost exclusively on exposure to nicotine in the cigarette smoke and not to nicotine present in e-cigarette aerosol emissions.” It then went on further, stating that Murthy’s report “describes effects in adults, not youth, and in animal models that have little relevance to real-world e-cigarette use by youth.”
In April of 2017, Donald Trump fired Murthy, leaving many vape supporters celebrating his departure and many anti-vapers outraged. While there is no official word that Murthy’s e-cigarette report led to his dismissal, much speculation has stated that this was most likely the case.
Overall Health Implications
One of the largest controversies regarding vaping and e-cigarettes are the health implications of not regulating the industry. Evidence on whether it is a net positive or net negative for the health of society as a whole is still murky in such a young industry. Are mostly heavy smokers switching to vaping, making it the healthier option? Or are non-smokers or people who would have quit started vaping, making it an unhealthier option? Are the percentages of the former and latter close enough to cancel one another out? It’s very hard to tell at this stage. Democrats feel that tightening the restrictions is the best way to play it safe, and make sure we’re not putting harmful substances in the hands of non-smokers until we know more.
- After Extinguishing E-Cigarettes with Regulation, Democrats Brag About Keeping Big Tobacco the Marlboro Man in Business – Washington Examiner
- New York Democrats Push Measure To Smother Vaping Industry – The Libertarian Republic
- Republicans are Trying to Sneak an E-Cigarette Exemption Past the NDA – Wired
- Senate Democrats Propose a Bill that Would Raise E-Cig Taxes – VapingPost
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