Opinion

Stand Strong on Flavor Ban to Protect America’s Youth

|
Posted: Oct 26, 2019 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Stand Strong on Flavor Ban to Protect America’s Youth

Source: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File

Recently, the Trump administration took the laudable step of announcing a proposed ban on all flavored e-cigarettes in the United States. Recognizing that we are in the midst of a youth vaping epidemic, as well as the sudden explosion of vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths, the president rightly sprung into action. Flavors are a gateway to vaping, addiction, illness and even death, and by removing them from the market, we can take a serious bite out of this tragic crisis.

Predictably, vaping giant Juul, who is more than one-third owned by tobacco giant Altria, is quietly trying to chip away at the flavor ban to protect its own profits. Juul notably took pre-emptive action last week to stop selling its flavored vapor pods online. Notably, this action excludes “menthol-based” products, which includes mint and traditional menthol. 

Now, the rumor mill in Washington suggests that the administration may relent and carve these flavors out of the federal regulation, clearly as a result of Big Tobacco’s pressure campaign.

If this were to happen, it would completely undermine the purpose of the flavor ban. Mint is every bit as much a flavor as mango or cotton candy. Stand at any gas station counter and watch the Juul flavors kids are buying. 

The only people suggesting that mint is not a flavor, apparently, are Big Tobacco lobbyists, who have been upping their lobbying game to keep these flavors on the market. In fact, in 2018, Juul spent $1.6 million on lobbying to fight the FDA, and that number is only increasing; from April-June 2019 alone Juul spent $1.01 million – its most expensive quarter to date – to protect these flavors. 

In fact, mint and menthol aren’t just flavors – they’re the flavors young people most prefer. So far this year, they have accounted for two-thirds of youth use

They’re also highly profitable for Juul – to the tune of $2 billion annually and 70 percent of the company’s total sales. This is an existential issue for Juul, hence the quiet lobbying campaign.

So, we have a situation where the 800-pound gorilla in the e-cigarette market is pushing to reinstate the flavors most popular with youth and most profitable to its own bottom line. Yet the company claims to be a partner with the government in combating youth use. Who on earth could believe them? Is the cynical public relations move of preemptively ending sales of non-mint and menthol vapor supposed to convince us of anything? Why in the world would we trust their PR efforts at all?

Earlier this month, a number of conservative organizations released a letter supporting the president’s proposed flavor ban. In it, they wrote, “Until e-cigarette companies are willing to abide by current restrictions on youth sales and further research is conducted by the CDC and FDA regarding the health consequences associated with e-cigarettes/vaping, we approve of the Trump Administration’s decision to halt flavored e-cigarettes to protect consumers, particularly youth.”

The goal is obvious, and stated at the end of that passage: Protect consumers, particularly youth. The objective of Juul and Big Tobacco is also obvious: Protect profits, period. The Trump administration should not be duped by this shameless ploy to pad e-cigarette company profits. The Administration must stand strong, and commit to a true, all-encompassing flavor ban that protects young people. 

Chad Connelly is the Founder and CEO of Faith Wins and the former director of faith engagement for the Republican National Committee.

Recommended Townhall Video