A nationwide ban on some flavored vapes went into effect earlier in the month, but so far, it only seems to be affecting adults – both consumers and producers. The idea is simple, if fundamentally flawed: Nicotine products that taste more like fruit or desserts than tobacco appeal to underage users, so a ban on flavored e-cigarettes will stop teens from vaping. Simple? Yes. Correct? Of course not. No one who pays attention really believes Big Brother’s ban will protect teens from their own destructive tendencies except for Big Brother. Teen users, it seems, missed the memo entirely. Once again, the Nanny State fails to save anyone.
A Little History
For those who haven’t been paying attention to this little project, the Democrats have been trying to ban vaping since they took control of the House of Representatives after the 2018 midterms. Liberty Nation’s Jeff Charles first covered this push back in March of 2019, when Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced a ban on flavors and accused vape companies of targeting minors. Were they? Perhaps – just like perhaps Big Tobacco has targeted minors for years, even without flavored products. Then again, maybe not. As it turns out, most adults who vape use non-tobacco flavored products.
Many of them credit the lack of tobacco flavor, paired with the dose of nicotine and the familiar hand-to-mouth motion for kicking the cancer sticks. Others, however, need their vape to taste like the cigarettes they once smoked in order to keep them off the real thing. Different things work for different people, but vaping has been shown extremely effective as a means of quitting cigarette smoking.
But are minors using the flavored vapes, as the Democrats allege? Yes. Gabriella Fiorino, writing for LN back in 2018, explained that one in five high schoolers – and one in 20 middle schoolers – self-reported vaping that year. According to the CDC, e-cigarettes have been the most common nicotine product used by minors since 2014. Also from the CDC: About 90% of tobacco users started before they were legally old enough to buy the products. The first e-cigarettes entered the American market in 2007 – but that’s not when kids started consuming nicotine. The vast majority of smokers started as minors even then – and that’s a fact that has been true for decades.
What’s Old Is New Again
Back before vaping was a thing, clove cigarettes were all the rage on campuses across America – both college and high school. Many of the students who smoked them believed they were “more natural” and therefore less dangerous than regular cigarettes. Some even believed there was no tobacco at all. Of course, only between 20% and 40% – depending on the blend – is actually ground up clove buds and clove oil; the rest is tobacco. Sometimes there’s cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, or other spices added for flavor. Clove cigarettes are different, of course. They’re more dangerous, as they contain more nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar than regular cigarettes.
Back in the 90s, it was bidis. Often called “cigarettes with training wheels,” bidis are small, hand-rolled cigarettes from Asia that are exported all around the world and come in flavors like chocolate, mango, vanilla, lemon-lime, mint, pineapple, and cherry. They took off with American kids because they were small, flavored, and had the additional “cool” factor of looking kind of like marijuana joints.
Then there’s the old standby: whatever Mom and Dad smoke. Minors have been sneaking their parents’ smokes and booze since legal age requirements came into existence.
Something Smells Off
So where’s the ban on bidis and clove cigarettes? How about flavored cigars, rolling papers, or even alcohol, like banana rum and peach vodka? For that matter, what about the rest of the flavored vape juices still on the market? The FDA’s ban only applies to cartridge or pre-filled pod devices. Think Juul e-cigs. Flavors are still available for refillable vapes, and then there are the disposable vape pods.
According to Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes (PAVE), teens have already moved on from trying to sneak vape in the classroom. “Kids are sucking on flavored nicotine pouches to get through the day until they can get home to their device,” she explained to NBC News, a week before the ban even went into effect.
History – and a bit of common sense – could have predicted the outcome of this ban: Minors who want to consume nicotine are still finding a way. Why would anyone expect any different? Meanwhile, adults must deal with additional restrictions in liberty – and vape shops nationwide have to cope with the loss of revenue.
Read more from James Fite.