Jacob Sullum

Call it the Rockefeller Rule: If an e-cigarette flavor does not appeal to Jay Rockefeller, it could not possibly appeal to anyone older than 17. Yet Healy testified that survey data indicate that "the average age of a cherry smoker is in the high 40s."

According to a poll by CASAA, a consumer group, half of adult e-cigarette users prefer nontobacco flavors. Picking a variety that tastes quite different from conventional cigarettes is one strategy for avoiding a switch back to tobacco, which is less appealing after you get used to a fruity or candy-flavored nicotine fix.

Because the critics of "aggressive e-cigarette marketing" cannot support their charge that companies like Blu and NJoy must be targeting children, they fall back on the claim that intent does not matter. They say advertising and flavors that might appeal to minors simply cannot be tolerated, regardless of the intended audience.

The problem is that people will not make the potentially lifesaving switch from smoking to vaping -- a switch that the Food and Drug Administration, which is developing regulations for e-cigarettes, concedes "would be good for public health" -- if they do not know about these products. Restrictions imposed in the name of protecting children therefore could have deadly consequences for adults.

Rockefeller gave the game away early in the hearing, when he asked Healy and Weiss, "Why in heaven's name are you going ahead and marketing these things and selling these things?" According to Rockefeller, the only responsible thing for an e-cigarette company to do is go out of business.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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