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Reduce Teenage Vaping Through Enforcement, Not New Regulations

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

As a former Trump campaign staffer, I appreciate the president’s successful deregulation achievements across the federal government. In fact, Neomi Rao who is the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, recently estimated that the Trump administration’s deregulation efforts are saving taxpayers billions. 

Some of the most successful deregulation efforts include repealing net neutrality, fixing the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, and rolling back other burdensome regulations, such as Obama’s "Waters of the U.S. rule," which made a small stream in your back-yard subject to the regulations of “navigable waters.”

Unfortunately, the outgoing FDA Commissioner has taken a different approach to the regulatory regime. Rather than attempting a holistic approach to address public health concerns, it appears FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb doesn’t mind issuing policies that pick winners and losers and distort the free market.

A clear example of this is the recently announced FDA guidelines on e-cigarettes and other vaporizer products. 

Commissioner Gottlieb, in one of his last acts as the head of the FDA, decided to unfairly target local convenience stores and gas stations. His new policy states that most flavored vaporizer products cannot be sold at these local stores, but can still be sold in vape shops, tobacco stores and online. Ironically, it is these last three retail locations that make up nearly 70 percent of where teens acquire their e-cigarettes (if they are not already receiving the product from a friend, a parent or as a gift).

recent study of over 1,700 adolescents who had used vaping devices over a 30-day time period, outlined how ineffective this new FDA policy is. The results of the study? Only 31.1 percent of teens acquired their vaporizer products from retail locations - and the overwhelming majority of teens used other means.  

And nowhere in the data is there any indication that limiting the accessibility of flavored e-cigarette products at local retail locations, such as gas stations or grocery stores, would successfully decrease teenage access to these products.

The fact that the new FDA guidelines would continue to allow the most frequent avenues that are used by teens to purchase e-cigarettes to remain open, only demonstrates how toothless this policy really is.

We can all agree that the increase in teenage smoking is bad. But this rule might do nothing towards addressing the issue and will most certainly hurt our local convenience stores and small businesses, and make it harder for adults who have the right to purchase these legal products to access these legal products.

When the best research available shows that the most effective policy to reduce teenage vaping would involve better age restriction enforcement, as well as allocating additional resources for research to create effective anti-vaping campaigns, is it worth compromising our rights and removing access to these products from adults attempting to quit smoking? I would imagine the majority of conservatives would come to the same conclusion I have reached - no. 

I am hopeful that liberty-minded individuals in Washington, like members of the House Freedom Caucus and Senator Rand Paul and other prominent, influential conservative senators, such as Lindsey Graham and Joni Ernst, who have fought for our rights and liberties and have large microphones within the conservative movement, will recognize this FDA policy for what it is - an unnecessary government overreach -  and speak out on this issue. 

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