The United States will vote on who will be the president over the next four years.

Democratic former Vice President Joseph Biden and his running mate, former California senator Kamala Harris are running to unseat the incumbent administration of President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence. 

A 6 out of 6 is a perfect score reflecting an open and encouraging policy on vaping, smoke-free tobacco products, tobacco, and drug harm reduction policy. For Biden and Trump, these two will be measured on two independent variables. 

FIRST VARIABLE — We look back at the general public health records of both individuals from previous public service, their most recent advocacy, and other recent events like how these individuals will respond or have responded to public health emergencies.

Joe Biden — As the former Vice President of the United States, Biden served under President Barack Obama during the endemic outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in 2009 and the rapid spread of the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa from 2013 to early 2016. Biden has pointed to these experiences as qualifying measures to combat the pandemic of COVID-19. According to former Obama homeland security adviser John Brennan, Biden was very vocal over the alarm of the H1N1 pandemic. News personalities criticized Biden for being a pessimistic voice, compared to President Obama’s calmer overtures about communicating information related to the time epidemic. Compared to Trump’s response to COVID-19, Obama and Biden had many of the same challenges in responding quickly to the H1N1 pandemic, including vaccine development delays and delivering verifiable health information. The Obama administration only curtailed the spread of H1N1 out of pure luck and timing. As a U.S. Senator, Joe Biden had a multi-decade career focusing on consumer protection issues and arms limitations through the Cold War. 

Donald Trump — Real estate mogul Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency in 2015, leading up to the showdown between himself and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Up until his ascension to public office, Trump has no demonstrable experience dealing with the outbreak of a virus or in matters of biosecurity threats to U.S. national security. In fact, the president’s only real-world experience in dealing with a major public health crisis is amid the outbreak of COVID-19. The president has been greatly criticized for how slow the administration responded to the pandemic. As a result, state governments have done most of the work in containing the virus, with Trump saying that he’s the sole purpose of massive mobilization to fight COVID-19. That’s false. Trump is surrounded by public health advisers who are more than qualified. 

  • Biden Score: 5/6 for public health experience in public service.
  • Trump Score: 3/6 for public health experience in public service.

SECOND VARIABLE: For our second variable, we look at how these two have treated the phenomenon of vaping in society and the market. Vaping for this variable is broadly defined to encompass nicotine and marijuana vaping. Here we measure based on their positive or negative perceptions of vaping.

Joe Biden — Biden appears to be an outspoken opponent to vaping. He’s on record saying that he would ban all vape products once he enters the office. He is also on record for endorsing flavor bans and only permitting some of these products’ restricted sale. Regarding marijuana, he’s pro-legalization and believes in strong regulations for the benefit of consumer protection. Under the Obama administration, the benchmark Tobacco Control Act of 2009 passed and was signed into law. The FDA was newly minted to regulate smoke-free tobacco products like vapes. They did so through the premarket tobacco application process that was established in 2009. The FDA deferred the deadline for PMTA applications by several years to ensure compliance. While Biden wasn’t directly involved with these activities, he was still involved in an indirect capacity. Biden is a “drug warrior” based on his previous advocacy in the Senate to penalize drug users steeply. 

Donald Trump — Trump has been on record for supporting the concept of vaping. This, however, doesn’t mean he has an overall favorable position for policy and practice. Donald Trump appointed public health officials like Surgeon General Jerome Adams or former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Both men were key figures in the final months of regulation leading up to the PMTA deadline and stoking fears over vaping during the non-communicable EVALI lung injury outbreak.

Trump also commenced a trade war with China, the largest manufacturer of electronic cigarette devices and components. This impacted the industry with new tariffs. Not to mention, Trump has done little for the benefit of vapers and smokers between the age of 18 and 20 years. Trump signed into law a bipartisan Tobacco 21 bill that lifted the nation’s minimum legal sales age to 21, from 18. Many harm reduction advocates viewed this as a means to penalize vapers aged 18 to 20, given the theory that the majority of youth vaping in the U.S. derived from illicit third party transactions from 18-year-olds to their fellow youth under that age. The president also has endorsed policies to criminalize illegal possession of a vape device nationally, striking another blow against underage users who may use the vape as an alternative to smoking. For marijuana legalization, the president has worked to formalize industrial hemp products and bolster those related industries. He is not in favor of legalization for medicinal or recreational use, however. 

  • Biden Score: 2/6 for his position on vaping.
  • Trump Score: 4/6 for his position on vaping.

  • Joe Biden has scored 7 points out of 12.
  • Donald Trump has scored 7 points out of 12.

We didn’t purposefully rate these scores to a tie. We are not endorsing any one for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.

This is a developing story.

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