Remember when activist groups targeted tobacco companies after determining that they marketed their products to children? After years of debate, they were punished for their business practices, and it appeared the discussion was over. But it seems that conversation is about to return with a vengeance – and this time, the prime target is the vaping industry.
Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) recently introduced a bill targeting vaping companies, arguing that they are deliberately marketing their products to minors. If the bill is passed, the government could undertake a massive intervention into an industry that is already the subject of controversy.
New Bill Targets Vaping Industry
The state of Colorado has the highest national rate of children using e-cigarettes. According to the Surgeon General, teenagers are drawn to vaping because of the various candy and fruit flavors available.
“Tobacco use remains one of the greatest threats to our children’s health, and we have to do more to protect them from the dangers of e-cigarettes,” Rep. DeGette said. “Most experts agree that the kid-friendly flavors that e-cigarette manufacturers are selling with these products are one of the leading causes of this spike in use among our high school and middle school students.”
But what resolution is DeGette hoping to achieve? In her press release, she states that she wishes to ban “the sale of these enticing kid-friendly nicotine flavors.” The bill, which is known as the SAFE Kids Act, would give vaping companies one year to offer proof that the flavors used in e-cigarettes are only being used to help adults who wish to quit smoking cigarettes. They will also be required to demonstrate that the devices do not increase tobacco use among teens or cause more harm to users.
So what happens if the vaping industry fails to convince the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they are not marketing their products to teens? According to the bill, they would be prohibited from selling or manufacturing flavored vaping formulas.
Are Vaping Companies Targeting Minors?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that e-cigarette use among teens has increased by 1.5 million between 2017 and 2018. It also found that about 90% of Americans who use tobacco products started before turning 18. But is this increase the result of a concerted effort on the part of vaping companies to sell their products to teenagers? The short answer is: It’s not so clear.
Vaping is an activity that has grown in popularity over the past decade among both teens and adults. Many believe that the practice makes it easier for smokers to give up cigarettes, and some studies support this argument.
Proponents of the DeGette bill argue that manufacturers are using sweeter flavors to entice children, but several industry surveys reveal that fruity flavors are the most popular among adults. Indeed, many who vape do not wish to use a product that tastes like cigarettes because they do not want to be tempted to go back to smoking.
If the bill is passed, and the FDA rules against the vaping industry, the federal government could be empowered to once again infringe on the liberty of those who should be allowed to use whichever products they choose. Moreover, if adults who are trying to quit smoking are prevented from purchasing the flavors they prefer, it could make it even more difficult for them to give up a habit that is, quite likely, far more damaging than vaping.