Romney brings e-cig bill to Senate

The end of vaping in the USA loomed a little closer last week as Senators Mitt Romney (R, UT) and Jeff Merkley (D, OR) introduced a bill that would sweep most products off the market and slam what remained with punitive taxes. Promoted as a response to the “vaping crisis” that will “prevent a new generation from addiction”, the reality is that the bill is a blunt instrument that will push millions back to smoking.

The heart of the bill is a ban on all non-tobacco e-liquid flavours. According to Merkley, “Vaping companies have hooked millions of our children on nicotine using e-cigarette flavors like ‘gummy bear,’ ‘scooby snacks,’ and ‘strawberries and cream.’” Like most opponents of vaping he’s ignoring the fact that repeated studies have shown these flavours are popular among adult vapers, and play an important role in transitioning former smokers away from tobacco.

There’s plenty more bad news hidden in the bill, though. One measure is a requirement for vaping devices to be “tamper proof” (impossible to modify) and a ban on “refillable cartridges” (tanks). Between them, these two clauses eliminate all vapour products except closed systems and prefilled cartridges for them. Considering that clinical trials consistently find open system devices more effective at helping smokers quit, this is a crushing blow for harm reduction.

Finally, the bill would hammer whatever products remained with the same excise taxes that are applied to actual cigarettes. This is probably the real objective behind the law – to raise revenue. Romney wants that revenue to be used on a “public awareness” campaign about the “dangers” of vaping.

Federal prosecutors go after JUUL

The US Attorney’s Office for the northern district of – where else? – California has launched a criminal investigation of JUUL Labs, whose popular pod system e-cigarette has become the chief demon in the USA’s current moral panic over vaping. The office hasn’t released details of the probe yet, but it’s likely focused on the persistent allegations that JUUL Labs has targeted its marketing at children and teenagers.

These allegations have always been puzzling – JUUL Labs has never manufactured the dreaded “candy flavours” that legislators like to demonise, and has infuriated the rest of the industry with its support of higher age limits and expensive verification – but they keep coming up.

JUUL Labs has already been singled out for special attention by the FDA, and the recent outbreak of lung disease linked to black market cannabis products has brought even more unwelcome attention on the company. The Federal Trade Commission is also investigating their marketing practices, particularly social media.

Flavour ban threat already causing stockpiling

Faced with state-level flavour bans in New York and Michigan, and the threat of a federal one imposed by the Romney/Merkley bill, American vapers have already begun stockpiling flavoured liquids before they’re taken off the market.

Increasing numbers of US users are appearing on social media to show off the liquids they’ve bought in anticipation of a crackdown.

While stockpiles of professionally manufactured liquids should be safe to use for years, the risk is that a ban will force vapers who don’t stockpile to either make their own flavoured liquid or buy from the large black market that will inevitably appear. There’s a degree of risk involved in making DIY liquid, unless flavourings specifically intended for vaping are used – many food flavourings have an oil base and are dangerous when inhaled. As for black market products, with nine dead so far thanks to contaminated THC cartridges the risk is obvious.

USA hit by epidemic of e-cig bans

As vaping panic continues to spread across the USA, fuelled by irresponsible reporting and ruthlessly exploited by anti-harm reduction activists, businesses and lawmakers are banning sales of e-cigarettes in a kneejerk reaction.

The highest profile ban is Massachusetts, where Governor Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency on Tuesday and banned all sales of vapour products within the state. So far 61 potential cases of lung disease have been reported in Massachusetts and Baker is using that to justify a ban.

Walmart has announced that it will pull all vapour products from its Walmart and Sam’s Club shops until further notice. AAFES, which runs the Post Exchange (PX) shops on US Army and Air Force bases, and Navy Exchanges are also removing all vapour products from sale (although the US Marine Corps Exchange hasn’t made a decision yet).

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