By Susan E. Oser, Guest Contributor
The views in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Libertarian Party of Michigan, but the LEC has passed a resolution on this topic. Susan E. Oser is a vaping advocate and former writer of Vape News Magazine and former hostess of vapenet and VapeTVLive. She is currently teaching online and contributing to various publications. She hopes to contribute more educational content and information on The Rights of Vapers and other free-choice issues if she is able to.
Along with the Americans For Tax Reform Party, The Libertarian Party is the only other political party that understands the voice of the traditional e-cigarette user (“vaper”).
On November 9, vapers from Michigan and around the country travelled to Washington D.C. to tell Donald Trump and our federal legislation that “We Vape. We Vote.” It was a well-attended protest. Here is one of many examples of where you can find coverage of some of the rally:
“We Vape. We Vote” is not just another slogan that can be found on a T-shirt, a sign, or a chant. It’s a lot more than that. It has become a movement with real people, not paid actors or activists. That is what various leaders, the mainstream media, or others would like you to believe. It is about the lives of a community that is sadly being used as a political, as well as a major media PR, football.
Politically, the issue of vape flavor bans and e-cigarettes are an “easy issue” to rally around, as a way to show constituents that at least something productive is happening in our government. So, banning a product to get votes, and money from Big Pharma and Big Tobacco lobbyists is the modus operandi while the small vape shops are either losing business, downsizing or closing their doors.
This isn’t just happening around the state of Michigan, it’s happening around the country.
Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) corrected itself and updated information in light of recent investigations, the at least 29 deaths, reported in the news media, came from Vitamin E Acetate-laced THC black-market cartridges. This Vitamin E Acetate oil is used as a thinner for THC-oil, it is put into the cartridges for mass production on said black market. The cannabis community was way ahead of the curve on this issue and was warning the public a long time ago – before these dates hit the mainstream media.
However (and this is where the media PR campaign comes in), because the general term “vaping” is used as clickbait in the headlines, and the details are in the small print of said article, e-cigarette users have been unfairly lumped in and vilified by the public. Even with the CDC correction, the damage has sadly been done, and psychologically, even if a shocking headline and misinformation is corrected, the general Joe-public will still not believe it and follow the original headline (forward video to 4:30).
In the eyes of vapers (even with the happiness of a factual correction), they still must fight hard educating the public by showing up at meetings and offices to tell their truth, while the anti-vapers still believes in the lies. And doing this at the local, state, and federal level.
Michigan’s vape flavor ban was recently overturned but Governor Whitmer who is planning on going to the Supreme Court to try to get the ruling overturned. With the holidays coming up, only time will tell. As of this writing, it’s been quiet in the state of Michigan, but it doesn’t mean work isn’t being done in our legislature to protect the vaping community.
The state of Massachusetts have taken vaping bans further by going to the extreme and getting the police involved in a 1920s-style searches and seizures prohibition method.
President Trump is now throwing his hat into the ring saying at first there should be a ban on all e-cigarette products (more than likely thanks to the advice of his wife and Vice President Mike Pence who destroyed Indiana with vaping laws when he was governor of that state). Now, because he got a bug in his ear, votes for him might be lost in the 2020 election. This is thanks to vapers, who once voted for him, learning he’s flip-flopped on the issue. On Twitter, he has even promised to meet with all sides on the issue. However only time will tell, and sadly, while Trump is a good marketer, he lacks on the management of follow-through.
Thus, we now have the ball in the court of Congress with Senate Bill 1253, which has added a clause which would ban on-line sales e-cigarettes, and the USPS would stop delivering such product. The House Subcommittee on Health has been discussing HR 2339 also known as the Reversal of the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019. This seeks to increase the age of purchasing tobacco products from 18-21 as well as ban online sales of (even of cigars), increase user fees and more.
On both sides of this argument, regulation is OK, if it is sensible and respects the freedom of choice of the adult user of an e-cigarette. Even the vape community agrees that teens should not have e-cigarettes, because the intent was for adults to quit smoking regular combustible cigarettes; not to get a strong buzz from high nicotine levels that are harmful. Parents need to be involved and have the discussion on the table about vaping and e-cigarettes, and not let the government or school boards do the parenting for them.
Many in the community, especially vape shop owners, have been asking (and almost pleading) for sensible regulation so they can run their businesses – not punishments. Punishments are occurring now (thanks to greed and a lax in honoring the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), and the FDA dragging their feet on PMTAs (Premarket Tobacco Product Applications). Also their deeming regulations that started back in 2016… Thanks to Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, making deals and losing money on traditional cigarettes and healthier communities have also contributed.
The small vape shops are following the rules and doing all they can to run a business legally. Some have put all their investment and livelihoods into it. Yet, they are the ones that are punished while the convenience store and/or gas station nearby is getting away scott-free not carding kids who buy e-cigarettes (as they would for the purchase of alcohol). If there were already sensible laws on the books (that were implemented on e-cigarettes) before these panic bans were put into place, they needed to be enforced first and not detracted.
So, what can you do as a citizen and especially as a Libertarian member of the community?
The issue with vaping and e-cigarettes is a freedom of choice issue and the community thanks the Libertarian party for its understanding and support. The more supportive voice there are, the better it is for the movement and justice for vaping community and those who are thinking about trying it in the future.