September 12, 2019

FDA to Ban Flavored E-cigarettes

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“The federal government will act to ban thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, responding to a recent surge in underage vaping that has alarmed parents, politicians and health authorities nationwide.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is generally in favor of the ban.

“To market a product as less harmful than cigarettes is to damn it with faint praise… As stories pile up of sicknesses, side effects, and the potential for long-term consequences, it’s clear that ‘safe’ and ‘safer than smoking cigarettes’ are vastly different things.”
Amanda Mull, The Atlantic

“One in five high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018, an increase of 78 percent over 2017. E-cigarette use was up by nearly 50 percent among middle schoolers in the same period. More than three and a half million American children now use e-cigarettes, with 97 percent of users aged 12 to 17 choosing flavored products… E-cigarette companies insist their goal is to help people quit smoking. But 13-year-olds don’t start using cotton-candy-flavored pods for Juul devices to kick a cigarette habit. Much more often, e-cigarettes lead kids directly to nicotine addiction…

“To those of us on the front lines of the fight against tobacco use, the tactics companies are employing to sell e-cigarettes — flavorings, unfounded health claims and the hiring of celebrity promoters — are all too familiar. They are the same strategies that tobacco companies have long used to get kids to try cigarettes. There’s still much we don’t know about the connection between lung illness and vaping.  But we do know that one Juul pod contains about as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, and that nicotine harms brain development… Banning flavored e-cigarettes is the most important thing we can do to reduce use among young people.”
Michael R. Bloomberg and Matt Myers, New York Times

“There is no reason vaping products should be available in bubble-gum flavor except to induce young people who are most at risk. The FDA sent a warning letter on Monday to the most popular vaping manufacturer, Juul Labs, complaining the company has made claims in school presentations that its products are less dangerous than tobacco without an appropriate FDA order. The FDA must remain vigilant against marketing to and use of vaping by young people. Overall, this is a complex problem of science, business, technology, culture and public health. Vaping began with very little regulation. Whatever the outcome of the current spate of illness, it is now clear that in the public interest, it must be rigorously scrutinized and controlled.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

It’s worth noting that “evidence that these products help people avoid combustible cigarettes is limited. [On the other hand] the fact that they’ve introduced a whole new generation of young people to a highly addictive and possibly dangerous habit is indisputable… A ban on flavored products will help curb the teen vaping epidemic, but stricter age restrictions and a more aggressive clampdown on deceptive marketing should follow. Then there’s the black market: The devices people are buying on the street and the liquids used in them demand more attention. Finally, this crisis makes it even more clear that marijuana products shouldn’t continue to exist in confusing regulatory limbo.”
Max Nisen, Bloomberg

Some point out that “fifty-three people died from mass shootings in August alone and there have been more than 9,000 gun deaths so far in 2019. Still, the Trump administration, willing to act fast when it comes to mango-flavored vaping liquid, has backed away several times from the idea of passing universal background checks on gun purchases. Trump wrote in a 2000 book that he supported an assault weapons ban but hasn't embraced the idea in office. The Odessa, Texas, shooter who killed seven people in August and wounded 22 others had previously failed a background check and purchased the AR-style rifle used in the attack through a private sale, avoiding a background check… The administration says vaping is a deeply concerning epidemic but is turning a blind eye to another, much more deadly health crisis: gun violence.”
Susan Rinkunas, Vice

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right generally opposes the ban.

From the Right

The right generally opposes the ban.

“There have been six deaths in America possibly linked to vaping —six deaths out of the more than 11 million people who report using e-cigarettes. If you're keeping track at home, that's a fatality rate of .0005%. By comparison, 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year. An estimated 128,000 people die from prescription pills annually… 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.”
Matt Walsh, Daily Wire

“A bad idea, for at least two reasons. One: Leaving tobacco-flavored e-cigs on the market risks funneling kids who currently get their nicotine fix from fruit-flavored candy-like products towards something that tastes much more like real cigarettes. If the fear with vaping is that it’s a gateway drug for tobacco products, why the hell would you want to condition children to crave nicotine that tastes like tobacco?... [and] Although scientists are unsure what’s causing the cases of lung disease, even critics of vaping like former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb suspect that black-market products are to blame. In which case the last thing the feds should want to do is… push demand for fruit flavors entirely onto the black market, right?”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Banning flavored e-cigarettes could only make the situation worse, driving users to the black market where they are more likely to encounter these dangerous chemicals. It’s unfair to blame a whole category of products on the bad actions of illegal actors. An analogous situation would be if Kentucky started banning the sale of moonshine by legal distillers because a black market batch caused some drinkers to go blind. In both cases, government action in the form of investigation, prosecution, and issuing health guidelines may certainly be justified. However, a broad-stroke ban against otherwise legal, health-certified products would be government overreach.”
Casey Given, Washington Examiner

Some, however, argue that “according to research out of the University of California-San Francisco, smoking e-cigarettes daily doubles your risk of a heart attack and when combined with traditional cigarettes, your risk increases five-fold… study after study has shown that while using e-cigs is not as bad as smoking traditional cigarettes, they are just as addictive. That is precisely what the big tobacco companies are after. A new generation hooked on nicotine, delivered ‘healthily’ through e-cigarettes…

“Five e-cig companies dominate 95 percent of the market (JUUL, MarkTen XL, Logic, Vuse and Blu). While those names don’t sound like big tobacco, 35 percent of JUUL is owned by Altria Group (maker of Marlboro cigarettes), and MarkTen XL is also owned by Altria. Vuse is owned by British American Tobacco, Logic by Japan Tobacco Inc., and Blu by Imperial Brands. Altria and Philip Morris are also partnering to sell a new brand of e-cigs called IQOS.  Big tobacco has simply repurposed themselves, under new brand names, to continue to profit off the pain and suffering of millions of people.”
Liberty Vittert, Fox News

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes, “The industry’s failure to confront the youth vaping epidemic leaves e-cig companies vulnerable to those who doubt that the major brands are responsible stewards of their products… Manufacturers need to separate legitimate e-cigs from illegal adulterants by publishing detailed information on their ingredients, by taking meaningful steps to limit youths’ access to their products and its appeal to them, and by fully embracing an FDA application process that they’ve largely fought… The longer that legitimate e-cigarette companies reject their obligations to help distinguish acceptable products from dangerous ones, the more they will be lumped in with those contributing to the growing glut of illegal products. That’s bad for preserving their businesses, and it’s bad for protecting the public health.”
Scott Gottlieb, Washington Post

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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