Should mint, fruit, and candy flavors in e-cigarettes and vaping products be disallowed?
With 27% of high school seniors having vaped in the previous month, many believe a public health crisis is at hand. 14% of high school seniors have only used flavored vaping products, such as candy, fruit, and mint.
In September, President Trump announced that his administration would ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, reportedly due to the influence of his First Lady Melania and daughter Ivanka. But literally the night before the ban was to take effect in early November, Trump changed his mind, citing potential job losses.
As long as Trump remains president, any flavor ban would now presumably have to take effect through Congress.
What the bill does
The Ending New Nicotine Dependencies (ENND) Act would ban all e-cigarette flavors.
Although that’s the legislation’s primary selling point, it would also ban refillable cartridges, which some consumers use to fill vaping products with other fluids that are far less safe. It would also apply the existing $1.01 per pack federal tobacco excise tax to to e-cigarettes as well, from which the products are currently exempt.
It was introduced in the Senate on September 19 as bill number S. 2519, by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the legislation takes on one of this decade’s primary public health issues.
“With nearly a quarter of high school students vaping regularly, we must take decisive action to prevent a new generation from addiction and serious health risks,” Sen. Romney said in a press release.
“Let’s begin by passing legislation which ensures that non-tobacco flavored vaping products are removed from the market and prevents vaping devices from being adulterated with hazardous substances,” Sen. Romney continued. “The ENND Act will address both of these concerns, as well as apply the existing tobacco excise tax to e-cigarettes and use it to launch a public awareness campaign.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that vaping is actually less harmful than traditional cigarettes, and flavored products help promote the relatively more-benign option.
“Removing flavors is bad for adult smokers,” American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Sally Satel wrote in a USA Today op-ed. “There is little question that some adults will switch back to their Marlboros and Kools if their preferred flavors are no longer available. Surveys of adult smokers show the vast attraction of switching from cigarettes to a vaping device that uses nontobacco flavor.”
“What to do?” Satel continued. “The FDA should not ban mint or menthol flavor vaping. As long as the corner store carries Kools and Newports, such a move is a prescription for a relapse to smoking.”
Odds of passage
The legislation, introduced by a Republican, has attracted two Democratic cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
Republican support is probably unlikely without President Trump’s backing, and his November reversal makes that much more challenging.
However, there is bipartisan support for other anti-smoking measures, with even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) supporting legislation introduced in May to raise the cigarette smoking age from 18 to 21.