Flavour ban up in the air as Trump meets vaping and public health industries
Plans for a nationwide ban on flavoured e-liquids are on hold right now, after President Trump met representatives of the vaping industry and consumers at the White House last Friday; anti-harm reduction activists were also present, making for a lively discussion. Now it looks like Trump, who announced last month that all non-tobacco flavours would soon be banned, is trying to back down from that position.
So far all that seems certain is that the purchase age for vapour products will be raised from 18 to 21 – bringing federal law into line with what many states are already doing. When this was suggested by vaping advocacy groups, Trump said the administration had already decided to do it. While the higher age limit will stop many young smokers accessing a safer alternative, the idea seems to have built up unstoppable momentum in the USA.
On the other hand, it looks as if pressure from consumer and industry groups has made Trump think twice about a flavour ban. White House sources say the president has lost enthusiasm for that idea, fearing that it could cost him too many votes in next year’s presidential election. While anti-THR groups continue pushing for a flavour ban, Trump is refusing to commit to one at this point.
Democrat candidate Warren calls for tougher vaping laws
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) is piling on pressure for even harsher anti-vaping laws. The far-left politician, who’s fighting to get the Democratic Party’s nomination for next year’s presidential election, is pushing hard on the FDA to impose a total flavour ban and other restrictions.
So far, Warren has raised questions about the Trump administration’s apparent change of mind on mint and menthol flavours. She’s urged the FDA to speed up its review of products – which would be a good thing, except she also wants the focus to be on “protecting children”, code for refusing to allow products on the market. She’s written to various FDA officials demanding “quick and decisive” action, again to “protect children”, and worked hard to spread spurious claims that vaping causes seizures. Unfortunately, whether or not she has any real chance of becoming president, Warren is well connected in Washington and can cause a lot of damage to the harm reduction cause.
Filipino cops launch vaping crackdown
Police in the Philippines have begun confiscating e-cigarettes from anyone seen vaping in public, following a crackdown announced by strongman president Rodrigo Duterte last Wednesday. Duterte ordered a ban on public vaping, as well as outlawing the import of vapour products, and warned judges not to interfere with his diktat. Now the police are putting his words into action.
By last Friday, police in Cebu were exhibiting at least a hundred confiscated e-cigarettes; in the Visayas province more than 230 confiscations are reported to have happened. Provincial police chief Valeriano de Leon says no vapers were arrested; the confiscations are just a tactic to show people that public vaping is now illegal.
One possible reason that nobody has been arrested is that there’s no legal basis for the law. Duterte has a habit of issuing orders that don’t have any legal justification and this seems to be another one. He claims that he’s enforcing the law, but the only legislation that even comes close to applying is a 2003 one that specifically refers to loose tobacco. Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, says there’s no legal authority for arrests, but a statement by a coalition of local vaping groups indicates no plans to challenge the ban.
Indonesia considers total vape ban
In another blow for harm reduction, Indonesia – the world’s second-largest tobacco market after China – is facing the threat of a total vaping ban. Apparently motivated by fear of the US lung disease epidemic, the government is looking at going down the prohibitionist route. According to the country’s health ministry, “The ministry’s stance is consistent: We want to ban, not limit, vaping and e-cigarettes.”
Indonesia has a relatively high smoking rate, at 35% of the country’s population – and well over 50% among Indonesian men. Unless the government embrace harm reduction, instead of trying to ban it, that isn’t likely to improve any time soon.