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Michael Swartz / September 13, 2019

Vaping: Banning Smoke (& Mirrors)

Of course, like other useless bans, this one’s couched as being “for the children.”

“It’s causing a lot of problems and we’re going to have to do something about it,” said President Donald Trump earlier this week. But he wasn’t talking about illegal immigration, trading with China, or even the mounting budget deficit. Instead, this “lot of problems” was caused by a legal product used as an alternative to smoking tobacco.

Over the last decade or so, the practice of vaping — using an electronic delivery system to inhale a nicotine-infused liquid converted to vapor form by a small heating device — has become big business. Today, thousands of retailers are selling the various flavored and scented liquids that make vaping attractive to both recovering tobacco smokers as well as a new crop of users that most concerns President Trump: teenagers and young adults. (In some states, teenagers are already prohibited from this practice by a legal-age limit of 21.) Instead of banning the product entirely, though, the FDA will begin with a ban on what they call “non-tobacco” flavors of vaping juice.

The question, however, may be whether the feds are targeting the right product for the right reasons. Their action was driven by a recent spate of news reports about serious lung disease and six deaths blamed on vaping. (For perspective, more than 480,000 Americans die every year from cigarette-related illnesses.) Yet there’s concern that these victims are succumbing to a THC oil-based product often sold as a black-market alternative to standard vaping juice. As Hot Air’s Allahpundit points out, “The feds might inadvertently be doing more harm than good here by pulling safer mainstream products off the shelves and leaving consumers to try their luck with the bootleg stuff.” He adds that other nations are still encouraging the use of e-cigarettes with their original sales pitch: a safer alternative to tobacco.

There’s also the problem of allowing bureaucratic scolds to dictate the usage and sale of a legal product. As commentator Matt Walsh states, “If we are going to start banning unhealthy substances, we have a lot of banning to do before we get to comparatively mild and safe e-cigarettes.” He adds, “The leading cause of death in America is obesity. Here we have an actual public health emergency. … Yet soda and fast food — two staples of Trump’s diet, as it happens — remain not only legal, but are often marketed specifically to children. So let us confiscate all the Happy Meals and send government agents to locate and destroy all vending machines. Maybe then we can start worrying about vaping.”

If people want vaping juice, someone will supply it — just like the alcoholic will drink cough syrup if he has to, and just like the opioid addict will go to the street for his fix when the prescription runs out. But because the vaping problem was already being addressed in the proper venue, at the state level, we don’t believe President Trump needed to get involved. It was the type of move we’d expect from a nanny-state leftist like Bill de Blasio, not from a solidly Republican president.

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