Any day now the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce new regulations for flavored electronic cigarettes and vaping products.
Though a blanket ban of flavored e-cigarette and vaping products had been initially feared by thousands of small business owners who stand to be
ruined by such a ban, along with the millions of consumers who use flavored vape products as an alternative to more harmful cigarettes, it is now
reported that the Trump administration is reconsidering that approach.
While this federal announcement, which has the potential to shutdown nearly 10,000 small businesses a few weeks before Christmas, is awaited
anxiously by many, there has been an uptick in state-level activity in recent days and weeks related to the regulation and taxation of electronic
cigarettes and vaping devices.
It started with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who issued an executive order on September 15 banning flavored electronic cigarettes and
vaping products in the Empire State. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the New York flavored vape ban, as is the case with Governor Gretchen
Whitmer’s vape ban in Michigan. These legal challenges have prevented both of those prohibitions from going into effect for the time being.
Lawsuits have also been filed against the flavored vape and e-cigarette bans issued through executive fiat by Massachusetts Governor Charlie
Baker (R) and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D). Unlike the cases in Michigan and New York, the courts have allowed the Massachusetts and
Rhode Island vape bans to take effect.
While blue state e-cig and vape bans are devastating to thousands of small businesses, they’re not a surprising development given the political
makeup of those state governments. What is surprising was the move two weeks ago by some Republican lawmakers in North Carolina to raise the
state’s vape and e-cig tax.
On the morning of October 30, the North Carolina House Finance Committee amended Senate-approved legislation so as to remove a tax cut for
employers and insert an increase in the state’s electronic cigarette and vape tax. This move caught many off-guard, including North Carolina
House Republicans not on the Finance Committee, who cleaned up the matter later in the day by reversing the tax-hiking amendments that were
hastily and unexpectedly approved by the Finance Committee that morning.
North Carolina is one of nine states, along with the District of Columbia, that already levies a state-level tax on electronic cigarettes and
State & Local Vapor Excise Tax Rates, as of January 2019
Hours after the North Carolina House Finance Committee made the aforementioned changes, the House Rules Committee reversed them, removing the e-
cig/vape tax hike and restoring the franchise tax cut for North Carolina employers.
While discussing these developments on NPR last Friday, November 8, WUNC politics reporter Jeff Tiberi remarked that the amendment to raise the
vape tax was “removed very quickly.”
However, if anything happened quickly with this issue it was the Finance Committee’s surprise introduction and approval of the e-cig/vape tax
hike to begin with.
During last Friday’s on-air discussion about the vape tax hike’s abrupt introduction and subsequent abortion, WUNC’s Tiberi also alluded to
the vaping-related deaths that have occurred in recent weeks and months across the country.
Here Tiberi is doing what many in the media have done in recent weeks, which is to confusingly suggest that the deaths that have been attributed
to the use of illicit THC vaping products are somehow associated with legal electronic cigarettes and vaping devices that contain nicotine,
products which have nothing to do with the recent deaths but which have helped millions of adults quit smoking cigarettes.
A November 7 Bloomberg editorial published a similarly incomplete account of the situation while advocating for the federal e-cig/vape tax bill
that passed out of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee in October. In that piece, the Bloomberg editorial board conflates deaths tied to the
use of THC vaping products with legal nicotine-delivering e-cigarettes and vaping products, which have no ties to those deaths. The November 7
Bloomberg editorial did not mention to readers once that the vaping-related deaths are tied to illicit THC vape cartridges containing vitamin E
This author reached out to David Shipley, the Bloomberg senior editor responsible for the aforementioned editorial and asked why the Bloomberg
editorial didn’t see fit to inform readers that the 37 deaths referenced in the editorial had nothing to do with legal, nicotine-delivering e-
cig and vaping products that Bloomberg is calling for a new national tax on.
Shipley thus far has declined to comment as to why Bloomberg is still publishing confusingly incomplete information on this matter, even though
there is now a wealth of evidence suggesting that the deaths are tied to the use of illegal, tainted THC vape cartridges.
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb deserves credit for shining a light on the true cause of vaping-related deaths and illnesses. During a
November 11 appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Gottlieb confirmed that the vaping-related deaths are tied to illicit THC vape cartridges
containing toxic additives, not products containing nicotine.
Though the truth is beginning to come out, the wave of confusing reporting on vaping has already had an impact, causing many people to be ill-
informed on the topic.
“According to a Morning Consult poll conducted in September 58% of respondents believed people had ‘died from lung disease’ caused by ‘e-
cigarettes’ based on what they had ‘seen, read, or heard on the news lately,” writes Joshua Cohen, a Forbes contributor. “Merely 34% of
respondents said the cases involved ‘marijuana or THC e-cigarettes.’ Perhaps most striking of all, only 22% of respondents understood that e-
cigarettes are generally considered less hazardous than the conventional kind.”
Given the bevy of confusingly incomplete coverage similar to the November 7 Bloomberg editorial, polling that shows the public to be so ill-
informed about electronic cigarettes and vaping makes sense. Despite the persistence of confusingly incomplete reporting on the topic, the White
House appears to be pumping the breaks on the national flavored vape ban.
In a sign that the White House is reconsidering its course, President Donald Trump tweeted today that he is convening a meeting of vaping
industry representatives and health officials.
A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its pants on, so goes the old saying often incorrectly attributed
to Winston Churchill. Incomplete and confusing reporting about vape-related deaths and illnesses has been spread far and wide, by major media
outlets and reporters who should know better, but it appears that the truth now has its pants on and is starting to break through. Despite the
nationwide media hysteria over vape products, there remains a possibility that cooler heads might still ultimately prevail.