epic handshake meme about congress and senate agreeing on anti-vaping legislation

politicians agree on anti-vaping legislation

This has been a pretty rough month for the prospects of vaping going forward as the United States enters the election season. One thing the politicians and executive branch can agree on is vaping is a scourge plaguing the youth of the nation and urgent action is a priority.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb exits the stage calling for further actions such as flavor bans to end the "epidemic" of youth vaping, a turn of phrase often repeated to demonize vaping as specifically targeting teenagers. Former Commissioner Gottlieb has floated the idea of both flavor and product bans in the past.

The White House introduced its 2020 budget which called for huge user fees of up to $100 million per year to be extracted from the vape industry to fund FDA initiatives. User fees are typically passed on to consumers by way of higher prices, in this case effecting prices of all e-cigarette products but mainly vape juice and AIO type vape devices like the JUUL.

The idea of user fees to combat youth vaping has been previously proposed by Democrat Senator Jeane Shaheen in legislation, prompting the Senator to say in a statement "I’m glad the Trump administration is weighing-in and making it clear that it’s past time to tackle the crisis of youth e-cigarette use ... I hope to work with the administration as I rally bipartisan support for my legislation in Congress."

This week, two Democrat members of congress introduced legislation which would destroy the vape industry called the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act.

From The Hill:

Two Democratic House lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled legislation aimed at tamping down the uptick of tobacco and e-cigarette use in young people.

Under the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act  — spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), the former secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration — the government would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years of age. The bill would also make it unlawful for companies to market their cigarette and e-cigarette products to those under 21.

Additionally, the legislation would require tobacco companies to include “graphic health warnings” on cigarette advertisements and packages and extend Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations pertaining to cigarette sales and distribution to include smokeless and e-cigarette products. Non-face-to-face tobacco sales would also be barred if the bill is signed into law.

-- [emphasis added]

The main highlights from the Democratic legislation:

  • Ban online sales
  • ban all flavors except tobacco, unless approved by FDA 
  • authorize FDA to collect user fees of up to $100 million
  • raise age for all tobacco, including vape products, to 21
  • extend FDA marketing regulations to vaping industry including graphic warnings

Over in the Senate, Republican Majority Leader announced his re-election campaign on Wednesday and on Thursday said he is going to introduce legislation in the Senate next month to raise the nationwide minimum age for for buying tobacco from 18 to 21, which would also include all vaping products. McConnell's legislation is expected to be introduced in May and according to him will "protect the health of teens nationwide".

At the press conference, McConnell said regarding his legislation,  "For some time, I've been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children ... Unfortunately, it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country".

The national age increase for tobacco sales has wide support from both political parties and industry players such as JUUL, who already limits sales to individuals over 21 due to legal requirements from the State of California, the home base of the company.

Assuming both pieces of legislation pass their respective bodies of Congress, there will be a reconciliation process negotiated between the two houses to settle on final legislation. Negotiations will more than likely have input from the White House, which has already supported the user fees and other executive branch actions proposed by the FDA.