Trump’s nanny-state ban on flavored vapes will only undermine public health

President Trump is facing an impeachment investigation, California is burning, and the national debt recently broke $23 trillion. But don’t worry — our government bureaucracy is focusing on the fight that matters: Banning mint-flavored vapes and e-cigarettes.

President Trump apparently thinks implementing paternalistic nanny-state policies is more important than addressing actual issues of governance or real health crises such as the opioid epidemic. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration will this week go through with a proposed regulatory ban on flavored vaping products, meaning that the Food and Drug Administration will unilaterally ban popular vape flavors such as mint and mango. Their slightly-modified rule will contain two exceptions, permitting the sale of menthol and tobacco flavored vapes.

The goal here is noble: To limit the rising use of e-cigarette and vaping products by teenagers. However, as is so often the case, the FDA’s regulatory overreach is rife with unintended consequences and will only end up backfiring and harming public health.

First, the goal of the ban itself must be bluntly evaluated: It is already illegal for minors to use vaping products of any kind, but the Trump administration is proposing more regulations to end a behavior flouting current law. What will make this law magically different and somehow effective, as opposed to the one being flouted?

It could, to some extent, make it harder for young people (and everyone) to obtain flavored vaping products. This is most obviously a slap in the face to those attempting to quit their addiction to traditional cigarettes, who often rely on the good taste of flavored vapes to help them make the switch. And it’s worth switching — e-cigarettes are 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. Notably, vapes do not contain cancer-causing substances such as tar that traditional cigarettes do, making them exponentially healthier alternatives.

Restrictions on vaping, to the extent that they succeed in blocking flavors, will inevitably push more adult smokers back to traditional cigarettes and make it harder for others to quit.

It also won’t necessarily encourage teenagers to make smarter, healthier choices. For example, this ban could backfire by leading more teens to return to smoking cigarettes. It is fortunate that, for now, tobacco has fallen out of fashion among today’s youth, but it isn’t something we can take for granted. After all, it was largely due to vaping’s emergence as a healthier, cooler alternative. Nanny state regulations always have unintended consequences, and this one could be deadly.

So, too, making flavored vapes illegal could lead determined teens to use homemade or black market products of the sort known to make people sick.

After all, the ban was prompted by the media freaking out over a few isolated deaths and several thousand people falling sick to vaping-related illness. However, many if not most of those cases involved people using currently illegal, black market products. According to Vox, “the data we have from states suggests it’s overwhelmingly illicit, pre-filled THC vape cartridges making people sick.” The Trump administration’s regulatory overreach will only encourage more foolish teenagers to hit the black market and use much more dangerous, illicit products.

Nothing about this big-government approach is conservative in the slightest. Trump should reconsider his flirtation with regulatory overreach before it’s too late, or vapers and small government conservatives alike will remember it at the polls in 2020.


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