Administration officials were all set to celebrate the banning of candy, fruit and mint e-liquid flavours, with a promise that shelves would be clear within a 30-day period following the announcement. The prohibitionist bandwagon screeched to a halt with the news the Trump had refused to sign a one-page decision memo on his night flight to a rally in Kentucky.
Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, had warned him that the #IVapeIVote Twitter campaign could impact on voting intentions in key marginal states. Worries over business closures and lost jobs were being conveyed across the medium the President values most. Activism was demonstrably working.
For a man who now claims he was ignorant about vaping matters and was only following this course as a favour to his immediate family, Trump has placed the blame of the negative publicity squarely on the shoulders of the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar – an outspoken critic of vaping and tobacco harm reduction.
Then came the Tweet: Trump announced he would be, “meeting with representatives of the Vaping industry, together with medical professionals and individual state representatives, to come up with an acceptable solution to the Vaping and E-cigarette dilemma. Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!”
It’s a noticeable shift from when he wrote, “People think it’s an easy solution to cigarettes, but it’s turned out that it has its own difficulties.”
Mashable’s Jim Roberts wrote: “Trump backs off flavoured vaping ban he once touted; campaign manager Brad Parscale warned the ban could hurt him in battleground states. Just to be crystal clear here: Trump retreats on a public health measure because he fears that he will lose votes from vaping shop owners and their customers.”
The Truth Initiative, a body with a remit not to lobby for legislation, exclaimed: “It appears that politics, not public health, is driving the decisions.” Clearly, politics is in the driving seat – but public health will reap the reward of a tolerant environment for vaping.
And so, last week, the two sides of the debate squared off in a White House “listening session” with Trump and key personnel. Videos flooded Twitter showing prohibitionist liars doing what they do best.
Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes told the president how children and parents were “in pain”, so addicted to vaping that they were failing in their studies. So crippling was this addiction that a total ban was the only solution, they suggested. So addictive that, following a ban, children would just “stop” vaping.
Leading the counterattack, Greg Conley pointed out that Michael Bloomberg has lavished at least $160 million in an attempt to get a total ban on flavours. He “who is no friend to your presidency,” pointed out Conley.
The ramifications of Trump’s volte-face stretch beyond America’s borders.
“Our Government needs to take note of an hour-long exchange inside the White House yesterday where concerns were raised about banning vape flavours leading to more dodgy counterfeit products,” said Ben Pryor, a spokesperson for the Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ) [link].
Mr Pryor’s comments followed the lively White House roundtable meeting and noted President Trump observing that if regulated flavoured products were banned “they're going to be selling stuff on a street corner that could be horrible. That's the one problem I can't seem to forget.”
The White House reconsidering a federal flavour ban comes as Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa is set to introduce the Smoke-free Environments (Vaping) Amendment Bill into Parliament soon. She has already indicated the Government will ban the most successful flavours for adults.
Fellow VTANZ spokesperson, Jonathan Devery, says vaping has played a major role in the 2018 Census data and recent A C Neilsen retail statistics showing New Zealand’s smoking rates and cigarette sales now at record low levels. He says 90% of adults transitioning from cigarettes to vaping rely on flavours to successfully quit tobacco.
“We are all for high safety standards, R18 sales being strictly enforced, and totally against youth marketing. However, if the Government wants to keep driving down smoking rates, making vaping less attractive to adult smokers will simply have the reverse effect,” said Mr Devery.
“Banning vape flavours would deliver some horrible outcomes in New Zealand as well, namely a black market. So we’re encouraging our MPs to just stop and think when they come to decide our vaping rules and regulations,” added Mr Pryor.
With U.K. media currently being flooded with articles quoting Professor Martin McKee sounding like a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids employee, many will hope that the country continues to follow its world-leading, enlightened approach to vaping – something President Trump would do well to emulate.