Fear is a powerful weapon, and government tends to be one of the fastest enablers of said fear. The latest target of federal regulators? Teen vaping.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb declared teen vaping an epidemic yesterday and vowed to do all he could to stop the nefarious devices from ending up in their hands. Here’s his statement from FDA.gov.
I use the word epidemic with great care. E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It’s simply not tolerable. I’ll be clear. The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products.
Gottlieb is vowing to bring a government-sized war hammer down on vape and E-cig companies for peddling their wares.
I’ve been warning the e-cigarette industry for more than a year that they needed to do much more to stem the youth trends. In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate, and the existential threat to these products. And the risks mounted.
Well, I’m here to tell them that this prior approach is over. The FDA is closely watching the trends in youth use. And if, as we expect, preliminary data that’s in our possession and will be finalized and released in the coming months confirm our present observations that the youth use of e-cigs is rising very sharply; we’ll swiftly change course.
It’s not surprising to see teens get their hands on vaping devices and E-cigs because they are marketed as an alternative to cigarettes. Want to not put all those harmful chemicals and tar into your body whilst still looking cool? Go vape!
This attitude is causing concern amongst parents who told USA Today the government has to get involved in solving the so-called “vaping crisis.”
Kelli Cogan says her 15-year-old son was able to get free Juul cartridges online last year by using his father’s name and birth name and having them shipped to a different address. The Rocky River, Ohio, woman says the company offered to block her husband’s name from ordering, but she didn’t think that was sufficient.
Juul spokeswoman Victoria Davis says the company now requires an age-verified signature on delivery and has made other changes to protect against distributing e-cigarettes to children under the legal vaping age in their states.
That’s not enough for Jon Ahles of St. Paul, Minnesota.
“I have two teenagers that are now vape addicts,” he says. “The first thing that the FDA needs to do is ban nicotine. These kids do not have a chance.”
Okay, time out with the histrionics.
It would be curious to find out if the parents were asked if they knew about the non-nicotine certain vape companies offer. Juul isn’t one of them, but the company’s website claims they’re working on it. Blu does offer nicotine-free juice and actually suggests it to people who just want flavors.
I’ve had several friends who went from smoking over a pack of cigarettes a day to just using the non-nicotine filled juice. It’s just as likely these teens who are vaping can simply switch to a lower or non-nicotine flavor easy-peasy. It may mean switching to a different brand, but is it really that hard or do people need to have their hands held like some toddler?
It should be pointed out fear is a major reason why there’s all this concern about vaping. Vaping – much like any new technology – tends to drive people crazy, especially if they don’t understand it. I remember hearing complaints from older people about the smell of the mist emanating from the mouths of vapers – smells which my olfactory senses didn’t register. It’s possible my senses have been dulled by years of living in large metropolitan areas but I doubt it. The reality is smells can be imagined, and if someone is conditioned to think a cloud coming from someone’s mouth is smoke, their brain is probably going to immediately react with a, “I smell smoke,” reaction. I even had a vaper blow the vape towards me and I couldn’t smell anything.
Another guess is Big Tobacco is looking to protect their own market share. The New York Times noted in 2014 RJ Reynolds and Altria put humongous warnings on their e-cigarette and vaping products not seen on tobacco products.
“To the uninitiated, it looks like they are responsible corporate citizens,” said Cynthia Cabrera, executive director of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, an e-cigarette industry group. She considers the warnings “disingenuous,” particularly the MarkTen claim that nicotine is “very toxic” when inhaled, swallowed or brought into contact with the skin. That is not true of the doses in e-cigarettes, she said.
Ms. Cabrera said she believed that the big tobacco companies had an ulterior motive, perhaps to appear to regulators and lawmakers as more credible than the small e-cigarette companies. She speculated that big tobacco companies would then be able to lobby for rules and laws that would favor them. She said some lobbyists were telling legislators that prepackaged, uniform e-cigarettes had lesser health risks than the ones sold, sometimes in made-to-order fashion, in independent vapor shops. In terms of warnings, Ms. Cabrera’s group has called for childproof packaging on e-liquids, which are used to fill e-cigarettes, and they favor warnings calling nicotine addictive and listing other ingredients.
Two of the companies Gottlieb called out just happen to be owned by RJ Reynolds and Altria. One could suggest Gottlieb mentioned those two to make sure their lobbyists are knocking on the FDA doors to make sure it’s easier for them to survive. Remember what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told Congress earlier this year: regulations tend to protect the big guy over the small start-up company. The same scenario plays out here.
This virtue signaling of the government “doing something” to solve an imaginary problem is ridiculous. There’s no reason for the FDA (or really any government) to be involved in trying to ban or restrict vaping. Leave it up to individual stores and parents to make sure teens aren’t experimenting with vaping pens and E-cigarettes. Gottlieb’s war on teen vaping is going to go the same way as the war on drugs: expensive and, ultimately, a failure.