Is Trump's e-cig ban the solution we're looking for
Mason Bennett, Business Editor
The Trump administration is preparing to ban all flavored e-cigarettes and cartridges in an attempt to combat an outbreak of a mysterious lung disease that has sickened hundreds and killed at least six people, mostly which are young adults. Specifically, the FDA is guiding the administration to remove all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes—including mint and menthol—from the market within 30 days of September 11. However, companies might be able to reintroduce their flavors at a later date, so long as they submit a formal application and receive approval from the FDA. This last part appears to be targeted at private vape shops around the country and not big companies endorsed by big tobacco, such as Juul. Beyond the outbreak of sickness, the recent surge in underage vaping—often referred to as an “epidemic”—is one of the biggest reasons such severe action is being taken, at least until the FDA can accurately review their safety.
The U.S Health and Human Services Department stated they want to keep tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes on the market for adults who may be using them to quit smoking. The Trump administration and the FDA aren’t the first to crack down on teen vaping, either; the state of Michigan as well as the cities of San Francisco, California and Boulder, Colorado have all banned flavored e-cigarettes. Furthermore, the data supporting the bans are obvious and well documented. Half of all high school students around the country report currently using an e-cigarette device, and the overwhelming majority of those students also report using fruity or mint flavors. A particularly popular device, Juul, makes a sleek device and advertises their own array of flavors including mango, orange cream and fruit. Its cartridges pack a powerful nicotine dose as well, with one pod (known to contain 200 “puffs”) delivering almost as much nicotine as two packs of cigarettes, which ultimately resulted in getting the younger generation hooked.
While this ban may serve a role in curbing underage vaping, the overlooked potential consequences make it seem like a panicked decision. When taking a closer look at the 450 reports of lung disease, the only common denominator between all the cases is not just vaping fruity flavors, but vaping counterfeit or contaminated products, including tobacco and cannabis. Currently, there is not enough evidence to suggest that purely the process of vaping, let alone inhaling fruity flavors, is the definite cause for this recent outbreak of lung disease. With that said, a blanket ban on all flavored e-cigarettes including menthol is certainly going to make it harder for some adults to quit using traditional tobacco, as it is a preferred flavor in many regular cigarettes. Along with this, the FDA claims they have always embraced e-cigarettes as a less harmful way for smokers to satisfy their nicotine addiction compared to traditional tobacco products. Yet, as mentioned, the ban is going to include menthol flavors, which is a very common flavor in a plethora of cigarette brands. The FDA was even supposed to start reviewing e-cigarettes last year, but former commissioner Scott Gottlieb pushed back the review until 2022. Un-ironically, the FDA’s timeline to review flavored e-cigs has now been pushed up to this year. Lastly, an outright ban on all flavored e-cigarette devices is estimated to completely eliminate 60 percent of all privately owned vape shops around the country, as many of them rely on selling flavored products. The FDA plans to resolve this, however, by allowing companies to appeal for rights to sell flavored e-cigarettes after the ban, as mentioned earlier.
All in all, especially since we have already seen good measures taken by the FDA to curb teen vaping, this ban if approved will be a complete disaster. Beyond the crashing businesses and somewhat contradictory behavior from the FDA, meddling with supply intervention never worked in the war on drugs. Because of this, it is very bizarre that prohibition is the weapon of choice now. If, in fact, the problem resides in tampered devices not available in shops, bans at the federal level will just worsen the problem they're trying to prevent, by in-turn encouraging the kind of private experimentation that probably brought about the recent spike of vaping related lung disease in the first place.