Every generation seems to have its vice-turned-health-crisis. The newest is vaping. Largely replacing cigarette smoking in the younger generations, vaping nevertheless has its own health implications. While vaping itself doesn’t seem like an issue that would cause much partisan debate, the regulations around it and the industries associated with it have sparked much controversy of late. Vaping is essentially taking on big tobacco, meaning politicians have a lot to say about how it is regulated and taxed. Overall, Republican views on vaping and e-cigarettes are incredibly positive. While they have their own health concerns, it’s clear that it’s a healthier alternative to cigarettes, and Republicans aren’t keen to dampen an industry that’s booming so beautifully. Such a strong industry can only help an already suffering economy, so Republicans have largely been fighting in favor of vaping.
Voters and Vaping
Vaping played a large role in the 2016 election, and politicians predict it will continue to do so in coming years. Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, stated in 2016 that he foresaw vaping being a large determining factor in the election. When asked why, he replied, “Vaping is not a product. It’s a movement. It is a community, it is a political movement in support of a community and it’s changing the country in very good ways.”
Fighting the FDA
The FDA has been trying to put staunch regulations on the vaping industry since 2009. At this time, the FDA seized e-cigarette shipments as unapproved drug delivery devices. The manufacturers sued the FDA, and the judge ruled that the agency could only regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. While this would result in less stringent regulations, it began the regulation battle that is still largely raging today.
In 2015, Republicans jumped into the FDA battle on the side of the vaping industry. 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 continue selling their products. This would start them down a lengthy and expensive path to fight for their ability to stay in business. However, if the grandfather date were to be moved, e-cigarettes would fall under the same terms as big tobacco. Republicans introduced a provision in 2015 that would do just this. While it was eventually denied, it is a good indicator of Republican views on vaping and e-cigarettes. Republicans took up another battle against these regulations in 2017, fighting to put a pro-vaping clause into a spending measure that needed to pass to avoid government shutdown.
This isn’t to say that Republicans want the vaping and e-cigarette industry to go unregulated. The tobacco industry, for example, is still highly regulated, despite being on the other side of the grandfather clause. Republicans simply want vaping companies to have the same privileges their less health competitors do to stay on the market and sell their products.
Financial Implications of Regulation
One of the largest concerns Republicans have about FDA regulations is the cost of the process to stay on the shelves. With all vaping companies needing to undergo this process, rather than being grandfathered in like the big tobacco companies are, the small businesses are essentially shut out. No new companies can enter the marketplace. This leaves the industry in the hand of big tobacco manufacturers with the funding to branch out, rather than small businesses who are more likely to help their local economies.
For a single product application, the FDA estimates that a manufacturer needs to put out $330,000. Within the industry, the real cost is expected to easily run into the millions of dollars. At the time that the provision was past, the agency’s analysis predicted that approximately 99% of products on the market would not even attempt the application process, let alone gain approval.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared vaping a potential threat to public health in late 2016. However, many found Murthy’s research to be flawed, and fundamentally disagreed with his findings. In April of 2017, Donald Trump fired Murthy, leaving many vape supporters celebrating his departure. While there is no official word that Murthy’s e-cigarette report led to his dismissal, much speculation has stated he made enemies based on his opposition to vaping.
One of the largest controversies regarding vaping and e-cigarettes are the health implications of supporting 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. However, while the data on who exactly is smoking e-cigarettes and what this means for the country’s overall health is still vague, many vape companies speak out publically that their intention is to help smokers find a healthier alternative, and discourage non-smokers from trying their product.
- Why Vaping Is a Big Deal in The 2016 Race for the White House – ChurnMag
- Republicans are Trying to Sneak an E-Cigarette Exemption Past the FDA – Wired
- Congressional Action on Electronic Cigarette Regulations May Save Vapers – The Hill
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