You may have recently read about a California legislators’ unsuccessful attempt to enact a ban on flavored tobacco products. Interestingly, a similar effort is taking shape on the national level by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which recently announced guidelines that would ban certain flavored e-cigarettes from any store that allows minors to enter.
The FDA proposed policy would not allow local convenience and grocery stores to sell flavored e-cigarettes that the FDA deems targeted toward children, but these products would still be available at vape and tobacco stores, and online.
First, the government should not be picking winners and losers in the marketplace. This top-down, big government approach goes against the current administration’s successful deregulation efforts. I think we can agree that state and federal elected officials know the needs of our communities better than unelected bureaucrats in D.C.
Second, when digging into the data on how teens get these products, the FDA proposed guidelines make even less sense. According to research, most teens who have e-cigarettes didn’t buy them from a retail location. This means that the FDA policy completely ignores most instances of teen vaping.
When looking at the subsection of teens who reported purchasing e-cigarettes from a retail location (31.1%), the stores that the FDA unfairly target only make up 7.8% of sales, whereas the locations ignored by the FDA make up over 70%.
Examining further, of those teens who bought e-cigarettes, nearly a third purchased these products online- the most common retail source of e-cigarettes for underage teens. The reason teens can get away with buying these products online is because unlike with other tobacco products, there is no requirement to check ID when delivering e-cigarettes and other vaping products. There are no restrictions, in part, because the laws that govern the delivery of these products was passed in 2009 before e-cigarettes became common.
Recently, Senators Dianne Feinstein, John Cornyn and Chris Van Hollen introduced the bipartisan Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, which would update the law governing tobacco deliveries to include e-cigarettes and mandate a physical ID check before handing them over. This commonsense legislation treats online retailers the same as traditional retailers, who check the ID of anyone purchasing e-cigarettes before selling them.
This simple legislative fix would be much more effective at addressing teen smoking than the FDA’s burdensome and unscientific policy.
We can all agree that the rise in teen smoking is a serious public health concern that should be a priority. But the federal government creating burdensome regulations that will be ineffective is never the right solution. It is incumbent upon our great legislative leaders, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to support legislation like the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, which will successfully prevent teens from being able to buy e-cigarettes. That’s more than can be said for the FDA’s new policy.
Angel Gutierrez is the President/CEO of Crescent College.