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Trump sacks US Surgeon General

In a surprise move late last Friday night, President Trump’s administration removed controversial Surgeon General Vivek Murthy from his post. Murthy was just over two years into a four-year term, and it’s unusual that his tenure was cut short – the last time a confirmed Surgeon General stood down early was in the early 1990s.

Murthy has been unpopular with vapers since releasing a highly biased and misleading report on e-cigarettes last year, and many activists have publicly called for him to be replaced. However, despite speculation it’s unlikely this was the reason he was pushed out. Murthy has also attracted the hostility of gun owners, and it’s more probable that the National Rifle Association pushed Trump to remove him.

For now, Murthy has been replaced by his former deputy, Sylvia Trent-Adams. This isn’t necessarily any better for vapers, as she seems to be carrying on with Murthy’s agenda. It’s not clear how long she’ll have the job for, though. Murthy’s removal clears the way for the Trump administration to put forward its own candidate, and many hope that this will be someone who’s less hostile to vaping.

Vermont drops plans to raise vaping age

Until a few days ago Vermont looked like becoming the latest state to raise the minimum smoking – and vaping – age to 21, but following a vote on Tuesday that now seems to have been kicked into the long grass. A bill put forward by the state senate would have increased the age for legally buying tobacco products from 18 to 21, and as usual vapour products were included in the tobacco category.

The state’s vapers had more or less resigned themselves to the law passing, following a vote in late March that gave it initial approval. However a second vote was called the next day, for reasons that aren’t very clear, and one senator changed his mind. This denied the bill the majority it needed, and Tuesday’s vote again failed to get enough support. The bill has now been “ordered to lie”, meaning no more action will be taken on it and it’s effectively dead.

While this is a welcome development for e-cigarette users in Vermont, the reason for its ebbing support is interesting. According to local media, some senators are worried that raising the smoking age would mean a $2 million fall in tax revenue. This won’t be missed by vaping advocates who say these laws are nothing to do with health.

Indiana vape racket to be scrapped

Vapers in Indiana have been suffering some of the most disruptive laws in the USA, since the state legislature passed a 2015 law insisting that all liquid manufacturers who wanted their products sold in Indiana – whether they were based in or out of state – had to be licensed by a security company linked to one of the politicians who pushed the law through. Mulhaupt’s Inc, had a stranglehold on the state’s e-liquid market, and they exploited it to the full by only licensing six companies then closing the door on new applications. To make matters worse, several of the licenses went to companies that were also linked to Mulhaupt’s owner. The law caused uproar, and there were strong rumours that the FBI were investigating it as a racketeering case.

Now the Indiana General Assembly has voted to rewrite the law so that any company who wants to sell vapour products in the state will be able to apply for a license. The licensing requirements will also be aligned with the FDA’s Deeming Regulations, which although harsh are a lot less draconian than the existing state law.

Resistance to the Mulhaupt’s monopoly was led by the Indiana Smoke Free Alliance, who have been lobbying tirelessly against the racket. Now the bill scrapping it only needs to be signed by Governor Eric Holcomb.

New bid to overturn FDA vape ban

The FDA’s notorious Deeming Regulations are being challenged by the Cole-Bishop Amendment, which would move the grandfather date from 2007 to 2017 – saving tens of thousands of products that are already on the market from the agency’s cripplingly expensive approval process. Now San Diego congressman Duncan Hunter is putting forward a bold new bill that would go much further, and exempt vapour products from the Deeming Regulations altogether.

Hunter has been a consistent supporter of vaping, and gained some minor celebrity status when he vaped in Congress. If his bill is passed, manufacturers won’t have to file the $3 million Pre Market Tobacco Authorization paperwork for every product they make, and will be exempted from many of the agency’s other rules too. Cole-Bishop would defang Deeming; Hunter’s bill would essentially kill it.

Six months ago the odds of the bill passing were slim, but the Trump administration seems to be purging many Obama-era public officials – and their replacements might be a lot friendlier towards tobacco harm reduction.