The House of Representatives voted Friday 213-195 to ban the sale of flavored vaping products, which are the liquids used with e-cigarettes, in order to discourage children from engaging in the practice of vaping.
Youth and adults under age 21 cannot legally buy vaping products, but youth vaping has skyrocketed in recent years under the perception that it is safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes. Roughly 37% of 18-year-olds had tried vaping in a 2019 NIH study, up from 28% just a year earlier.
Teen use prompts anti-vaping push
Advocates of the flavored vape ban argue that flavored vaping products attract teens and kids because they taste good and seem harmless. Teens who vape are at risk for lung problems, and it is still unknown how vaping might harm teens and adults because it is fairly new.
Thousands have contracted a lung disease linked to vaping, and 50 people have died from the disease. It was later discovered that most of the lung disease cases resulted from black market marijuana-based vaping products, which are illegal at the federal level already.
Trump action wasn’t enough?
The Trump administration announced a crackdown on the sale of some flavored e-cigarette products in January, but House Democrats apparently didn’t think it went far enough as it spared vaping liquids sold in open tanks at vaping stores frequented mainly by adults.
The loophole was meant to preserve the vaping shop industry, which provides 150,000 jobs to the economy. Certain voters in swing states were also thought to be very concerned about a total flavored vape ban, NPR reported.
States and localities are still able to ban any vaping products they want. And while no one wants to expose kids to diseases that might be caused by vaping, the 195 no-votes may be looking at this as more of a state and local issue that doesn’t really warrant federal government intervention.
Additionally, Politico reports that many adults prefer the flavored vape products as a replacement for tobacco cigarettes.
Black market still a concern
A major reason the White House has not come out for a stronger ban is that it can encourage the black market to flourish, according to the Washington Examiner. Black market products are not regulated in any way, and have contributed most of the illnesses associated with vaping.
A potential black market isn’t in itself a reason to keep harmful products legal. If that were the case, there would be reason for the legalization of all illicit drugs and other substances that people want even if they cause harm.
Some libertarians believe all drugs should be legal, but addiction is a powerful pull that causes people to make bad decisions for themselves even when they really don’t want to do so. It’s not as simple as free will in these cases, and I believe the government does have a role in protecting people from being at the mercy of an addiction by making these harmful substances illegal.
Vaping, too, can be an addiction that grabs many people at a young age, and it seems that the Trump administration has done a good job of balancing the rights of adults to make their own decisions against the responsibility to limit children’s access to the products. The House ban, however, goes farther than that.