If Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Wants To Keep His Commitment To Voters, He’ll Veto The Recently-Passed Vape Tax Hike

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Posted by Jack Fencl on Wednesday, July 8th, 2020, 4:07 PM PERMALINK

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) is one of 12 sitting governors who has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to voters to oppose and veto any and all efforts to raises taxes. If Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is to keep this promise to Georgia taxpayers, then he will veto a bill currently sitting on his desk that would impose an onerous tax increase on Georgia vapers. 

Despite being under firm Republican control, both the Georgia House and Senate passed Senate Bill 375, a tax hike projected to raise about $14.5 million in new tax revenue annually by creating a 7 percent tax on vapor products. ATR opposed SB 375 from the beginning not only because it amounts to a significant tax hike, but also because it will adversely impact the health of Georgians by making a less harmful alternative to cigarettes far more costly. 

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a vape tax in Minnesota prevented about 32,400 adult cigarette smokers from quitting. Similarly, a Georgia State University study found that for every 10 percent increase in taxes on nicotine vapor products, cigarette sales rose 11 percent. That same study also found that e-cigarette sales dropped 26 percent, indicating vape tax hikes push consumers to use traditional combustible cigarettes instead. 

In many cases, misguided government policies are merely frustrating, but in this case it is literally lethal. While there are risks associated with vaping, it is clearly much less harmful than smoking. In fact, the global consensus by health expertes is that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes.  

The vape tax hike approved by Georgia lawmakers in June was not the first tax hike they passed this year. Earlier this year, the Republican controlled Georgia legislature passed House Bill 276, which amounts to a massive $150 million per year tax hike by forcing out-of-state marketplace facilitators to collect and remit sales taxes on online purchases in made by Georgia residents. 

The proclivity for tax hikes on the part of Georgia Republicans makes them an outlier in a region full of GOP-run legislatures that have been busy cutting taxes in recent years. Lawmakers in Florida and Tennessee cut taxes this year as a way to spur the economic recovery. North Carolina Republican legislators have been able to enact pro-growth tax cuts in recent years, overcoming the opposition of a Democrat governor who wants to raise taxes. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Georgia have a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer in their governor’s mansion and keep sending him tax hikes.  

Governor Kemp should veto SB 375 because it’s a mid-recession tax hike on a product that helps people quit smoking, and also a regressive tax hike that will disproportionately harm those who can least afford it. If that weren’t enough, Governor Kemp should also veto this tax hike because, by doing so, he’ll uphold one of the key promises he made on the campaign trail two years ago. 

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Vape Tax Threatens the Well-Being of Georgians

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Posted by Jack Fencl on Friday, June 26th, 2020, 2:17 PM PERMALINK

In spite of clear medical evidence and basic economics, politicians in Georgia are trying to impose a new 7 percent tax on vapor products. The evidence is clear—a vape tax would be bad for Georgia’s physical and economic health. 


Senate Bill 375 (SB 375) passed the House on a 123-33 vote June 25th. Though the proposal’s goal is ostensibly to curb youth use of vapor products, evidence from other states that have tried this route shows that there will be serious unintended consequences. 


A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a vape tax in Minnesota prevented about 32,400 adult cigarette smokers from quitting. The reason for this is obvious—smokers use vaping products to quit, but when taxes make vapes more expensive, smokers are discouraged from using them. It’s basic economics. 


A Georgia State University study found similar results for other states that have recently implemented vape taxes. The study found that for every 10 percent increase in taxes on nicotine vapor products, cigarette sales rose 11 percent. E-cigarette sales also dropped 26 percent, proving these taxes are pushing consumers to use unhealthy traditional cigarettes.


This research paints a worrisome picture. While there are still risks associated with vaping, it is clearly much healthier than smoking. In fact, health experts estimate that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. Given that higher taxes on vapes will lead to more traditional cigarette use, legislation like Georgia’s SB 375 will lead to negative health consequences, while imposing a regressive tax hike that disproportionately harms those who can least afford the added cost.  


Vaping tax hikes disproportionately harm low income Americans who are least able to afford a higher tax burden. If SB 375 is enacted, it will prevent mostly low income Georgians from using safer alternatives to quit smoking. Money hungry politicians may care more about the immediate $14.5 million in revenue the tax will generate, but Georgians who are trying to quit smoking will care more about the impact on their personal health for decades to come. 


Unfortunately, the push to raise vape taxes is not confined to Georgia. Similar efforts are underway in Colorado and California. In addition to being bad health and fiscal policy, these proposed vaping taxes also make for terrible politics. An October 2019 poll found that 83 percent of vapers are single-issue voters, meaning that where a candidate stands on vaping issues is the most important factor in determining how they will vote. It is easy to understand why someone trying quit smoking, a literal attempt to save their life, would care about this a lot. Politicians who support these tax increases do so at their own peril. 


House passage of this tax hike this week comes despite the fact that Georgia House Speaker John Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) previously stated that he was opposed to further tax hikes this session. If this tax increase were to get to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk, it would be a violation of the written commitment Governor Kemp made to Georgia voters to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to raises taxes.” 


SB 375 now goes to the Georgia Senate for further consideration. This comes after the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that contains both a vape tax as well as a massive increase in traditional tobacco taxes. House Bill 882 would more than triple Georgia’s current 37-cent per pack tax rate for cigarettes while also creating a vape tax that would have similar effects to that of SB 375. 


Tax hikes of all stripes should be off the table as Georgia begins to recover from the pandemic-driven downturn. The regressive proposals under consideration will actively harm Georgia’s economic and physical health and thus should be swiftly rejected. 

Photo Credit: Lindsay Fox

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Pete Buttigieg Confuses Marijuana With Nicotine and Signals He'd Impose Harsher Regulations on Vaping

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, January 15th, 2020, 10:15 PM PERMALINK

In Iowa this week, Democrat Pete Buttigieg signaled that if elected, he would place tighter regulations on the nicotine vapor industry, stating that “the burden has to be” on the vapor industry to prove that e-cigarettes and nicotine vapor products are safe, during a town hall in Winterset, Iowa on Monday. He went on to mischaracterize the value and intended purpose of products that are specifically flavored in nature and to blame nicotine products for recent vaping-related illnesses. 

Here’s the key exchange:

Voter: “So, in 2019, more than 27% of high school students used an e-cigarette. How would you address this epidemic as it pertains to youth and young people?”

Buttigieg: “So, what we are seeing is e-cigarettes being marketed and sold to young people despite companies telling us otherwise. The way this was marketed and sold to the country is that it can be used for harm reduction. It can get people off smoking combustion cigarettes and into something that might be less dangerous than cigarettes. But that doesn't make them safe in their own right, and that doesn't answer why you would target them for people who aren't smokers at all. And I believe the burden has to be on these companies to demonstrate that they are not causing harm rather than on regulators to demonstrate that they are.

This means taking action on these flavored e-cigarette products that are clearly targeted towards children and making sure that we have a much higher bar for them demonstrating that they're not causing harm because we're seeing all these horrifying cases of people coming to harm because they use this product.

And it is why, whether its specific to e-cigarettes or whether its more generally when it comes to the way that we regulate food and drug and other products in this country that we have regulators who actually believe in protecting consumers rather than being beholden to those whose profits are at stake."

Not only does Buttigieg signal that he would impose rules more onerous than those recently implemented by the Trump administration, but he refused to acknowledge the harm reduction potential of a vast majority of vapor products that adults use to quit smoking which are in fact flavored.

Without evidence or context he asserted that e-cigarettes have caused harm to consumers. In fact, Mayor Pete seemed to purposely confuse the harm being inflicted on consumers by black market and illicit THC marijuana products, which have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the culprit behind the recent vaping illnesses. Those THC products are generally already illegal in all instances, as opposed to legal nicotine vaping products available in convenience stores, vape shops, and other retail outlets. 

Buttigieg’s comments come less than a week after Elizabeth Warren signaled that she would crack down on legal nicotine vaping if elected and on the heels of Joe Biden also suggesting that he would “eliminate” vaping if elected.

“I don't care what it does to a small business person who's selling this stuff. If it is damaging lungs, if it's causing the kind of damage that is said and that studies not been fully done yet. If it turns out that it is that I would eliminate it,” Biden said.

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FDA's Decision to Ban Some Vapor Products is a Compromise But Not a Complete Victory

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, January 2nd, 2020, 2:28 PM PERMALINK

Today, the FDA released final guidance regarding the sale and availability of nicotine vapor products on the market across the United States. Beginning soon, the agency will force the removal of "closed system" nicotine vapor products that contain disposable "pods" and "cartridges" in over 150,000 retail locations. Exempt from immediate prohibition are products largely sold by thousands of vape shops, where adults can purchase a variety of flavored products and devices to customize their vaping experience. 

In September in the midst of an unknown lung illness outbreak, President Donald Trump and Secretary Alex Azar announced that all flavored products would be removed from the market. At the time, Americans for Tax Reform raised the alarm and outlined the dire health consequences of prohibition and the potential electoral punishment that would result should a full ban be implemented. Based on polling conducted in part by ATR in 2016 and then in October by Trump pollster John McLaughlin, we argued that a significant voter bloc in the 2020 election would be the "vaper voter." That message resonated, with reports that Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale agreed with ATR's vaper voter case so much so that he weighed in with the White House urging them to reconsider a ban. 

Since September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that all of the products tested from patients who had become ill from "vaping" contained a substance known as Vitamin E acetate. This additive is used by drug dealers on the black market to "cut" THC and marijuana vapor products and is not present in legal nicotine products subject to the Trump administration's new ban on pod and cartridge systems. 

ATR's Director of Strategic Initiatives, Paul Blair, had this to say of the new FDA guidance on vaping: 

"This fight should have never been necessary. The overreaction by nanny-state activists and the misrepresentation of the truth about the cause of teen vaping from some within the administration in September led the President into months of wasted time on an issue best addressed through sensible regulation and legislation on Capitol Hill. More than 10,000 small mom and pop businesses had to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas without any sort of clue about whether they'd have to let their employees go during the Holidays.

Fortunately, these small businesses have been spared, for now. The President heard many vapers' concerns and implemented a compromise position after an unprecedented amount of consideration was given to both anti-vaping activists and sensible small business advocates. 

The unfortunate reality, however, is that removing so many disposable and closed system vapor products from the market is that the very places where these reduced risk products were once available is where smokers can still buy any cigarette that they want. Smokers deserve choices, should they choose to quit. America's 34 million smokers will have fewer options, which may lead to fewer ever trying to quit with products that are at least 95% less harmful.

President Trump does deserve great praise for acknowledging the importance and health advantage of a smoker transitioning to an e-cigarette, an acknowledgement that never came from President Obama, who once smoked cigarettes. I hope that the current President understands that the pending May deadlines for submitting applications for every other business not impacted by this decision still present a real threat of prohibition given how complex and expensive the application process is. The FDA must immediately issue clarifying guidance on how small firms that sell flavored vapor products are supposed to make it through a regulatory process that has only ever worked for actual tobacco products.

Vapor products are the most successful quit-smoking tool to have ever existed. It would be a shame if they largely ceased to exist at the end of the historically successful Trump administration because some of his trusted advisors were taking direction from the likes of Mike Bloomberg." 

See more:

Conservatives Oppose Flavored Vape Ban

Moms to Trump: Don't Ban Flavored Vapes

Vape flavor ban will devastate Main Street businesses nationwide

Testimonials from adults who need flavored vapes to stay off cigarettes            

If you don't understand the power of the flavored vape issue, watch this video 

Vape ban could swing election against Trump

Sen. Ron Johnson letter to Trump: A flavored vape ban would harm public health and wipe out small businesses nationwide

NYT Editorial Board and Conservatives Agree: A Vape Ban is Bad for Public Health

WaPo: Vapers are "Astroturf" and Should Probably Die in Darkness

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Congress Should Reject Additional Online Sales Restrictions for Adults Who Buy E-Cigarettes

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, November 13th, 2019, 6:23 PM PERMALINK

This week, the Senate will consider legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) that would both prohibit the United States Postal Service from shipping electronic cigarettes and vapor products to adults and increase the cost of the products delivered by other companies. These bills will have a significant impact on millions of adults who rely on the availability of vapor products purchased online to quit smoking cigarettes. 

Currently, services like Veratad and Age Checker verify a consumer's age online with third party databases to ensure that they are consistent with the information the government has on age to purchase laws. Some of these services further require you to upload a photo ID already, making a new federally mandated point of delivery age verification both unnecessary and additionally costly. This legislation will result in adult consumers being forced to pay several dollars more each time they have e-cigarettes shipped to their homes, a needless government action that will result in fewer smokers transitioning to e-cigarettes, which are 95% less harmful than cigarettes. 

Teens who are not of the legal age to vape (those under the age of 18-21, depending on the state) are currently prohibited from purchasing nicotine vapor products online, a policy aggressively enforced by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA both monitors and enforces against online businesses that do not check age at the time of purchase or when you access the sales portion of a website that sells e-cigarettes. There is not an online loophole that allows underage consumers to purchase vapor products online.

FDA data conclusively points to social sources like friends or family being the way that teens get access to e-cigarettes, not online sales. This bill does not address the stated concerns of proponents of the legislation. 

The Senate should reject this legislation because it will raise costs on adult consumers and may result in fewer people choosing to use reduced risk alternatives to cigarettes. 

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New 2020 Battleground Poll Shows Vaper Voters Will Turn on Trump Over a National Flavored Vapor Product Ban

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, October 28th, 2019, 6:10 AM PERMALINK

In a new national poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, a significant number of adults that use e-cigarettes in seventeen key battleground states indicate that they will reject President Donald Trump’s re-election bid if his administration moves forward on a proposed plan to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, on that issue alone. The proposal to ban flavored vapor products is currently under consideration by the Food and Drug Administration and being championed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. 

The McLaughlin firm was a principle polling firm for Donald Trump in 2016 and remains a trusted ally for the administration. The poll was commissioned by the Vapor Technology Association. According to the pollsters

Four in five (83%) vapor consumers are likely to decide their vote based solely on a candidate’s position on nicotine vapor products and issues. Half (50%) are “very” likely to be single issue voters. 

This is almost identical to the polling conducted in part by Americans for Tax Reform in October of 2016, which can be found here. 

McLaughlin further concluded:  

Nearly all (96%) of these vapor consumers are likely to vote in the 2020 general elections. Four in five (85%) are “definitely” voting. Among the 4% who are less likely to vote, the majority (59%) would be likely to come out to vote if lawmakers banned the sale and use nicotine vapor products. 

These vapor consumers favor the Republican candidate on the generic ballot (46% to 24%), but 30% are undecided and up for grabs in the battleground states. 

Supporting a ban on flavors in all nicotine vapor products is a political liability. Nearly all (96%) vapor consumers are LESS likely to vote for a candidate who supports a flavor ban. The intensity (92% much less likely) shows the passion they share on this issue. 

The White House recently confirmed to the Washington Post that the “opinion of the [Trump] campaign" was that ‘banning flavored e-cigarettes might cost Trump reelection,’ an assertion published in the Washington Examiner based on an ATR analysis of likely single-issue adult vapers in key battleground states.  

McLaughlin also concluded that there “is political upside for candidates who oppose a ban on flavors in all nicotine vapor products. Virtually nine in ten (88%) vapor consumers are MORE likely to vote for a candidate who opposes a flavor ban. Eight in ten (79%) are ‘much’ MORE likely to support such a candidate.” 

On the flip side, if HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Acting FDA Commissioner successfully convince the White House to implement a flavor ban, McLaughlin concluded that “vapor consumers in Trump’s base would likely turn on him over this single issue.”  

Although vapor consumers currently approve of the job Donald Trump is currently doing as President (51-44), 74% said that they would be less likely to vote for him, with 65% saying they would be “much less” likely to vote for Trump. Among key base and supporters, it’s significant: 

  • Approve Trump: 65% less likely; 
  • Republicans: 65% less likely; 
  • Conservatives: 62% less likely; 
  • Independent Men: 83% less likely; 
  • Independent Women: 79% less likely.  

Prior to e-cigarettes, 84% of respondents smoked a pack of cigarettes a day or more, with 94% reporting no longer smoking cigarettes due to nicotine vapor products. More than half smoked for at least 20 years before quitting. 

“This new poll further confirms what Americans for Tax Reform has long argued, that millions of adults who use flavored nicotine e-cigarettes to quit smoking will vote on that issue and that issue alone. Banning flavors would be a significant political liability in every single one of the states that Donald Trump needs to win next year, especially in states like Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin which have at least two million adult vapers alone,” said Paul Blair of Americans for Tax Reform. 

“As McLaughlin suggests, 74% of vapers in these states voting against the President because of this issue would cost him big. McLaughlin is a trusted pollster for the President so it is our hope that this puts a stop to the FDA and HHS's misguided plans to hand Democrats a win in 2020 by banning life-saving flavored e-cigarettes. Prohibition is not a winning proposition. Instead of demonizing people who are improving their own health by transitioning to products that are 95% less harmful, the federal government should focus its attention on the true cause of recent illnesses and death: black market THC and marijuana,” said Blair.

The poll of adult vapor voters was commissioned by the Vapor Technology Association and conducted between October 17 and 22 in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The full crosstabs can be found here. 

Read more: Conservative Groups Urge President to Reject Flavored E-Cigarette Ban

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Conservative Groups Urge President Trump To Protect Vapers from Flavored Product Ban

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, October 3rd, 2019, 6:00 AM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and a coalition of center-right organizations from across the country called on President Donald Trump to preserve access to electronic cigarettes and vapor products that millions of American adults are using to quit smoking or reduce their dependence on tobacco products in the United States. In recent weeks, there have been calls to ban flavored vapor products, including a push by New York billionaire activist Mike Bloomberg, who has invested more than $160 million to push a ban. In the midst of historic-low smoking rates among both teenagers and adults, a number of organizations are urging the President to implement reasonable regulations instead of outright prohibition.

The growing global consensus is that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes. Furthermore, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes are twice as effective at getting smokers to quit as government-approved smoking cessation products like the nicotine patch. 

Essential to the success of e-cigarettes as a tool for reducing adult use of cigarettes is the availability of flavors. Instead of confusing the issue of illness and deaths associated with illicit marijuana use and the popularity of e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking tool, conservative organizations nationally are urging President Trump to protect more than 10,000 small businesses that sell e-cigarettes to adults and implement sensible regulations instead. 

A PDF of the letter and its signers can be found here. 


Dear Mr. President,


We urge you to preserve access to life-saving alternatives to cigarettes for the millions of adults who rely on electronic cigarettes and vapor products to quit smoking in the United States. Of particular importance is the preservation of flavored products, which are not only the preferred product for adult smokers but essential to the success of vaping as an alternative to cigarette use long-term.

Your administration has rightly derided “regulatory dark matter,” or agency-generated guidance because it imposes “back door” regulations without going through a formal rule-making process. The flavored vapor product guidance under consideration by the FDA is among the most striking and nontransparent violations of your commitment to limit dark regulations since you took office. Unchallenged, the FDA will destroy thousands of small businesses without Congressional oversight and without sufficient input from the public.

Over 10,000 small mom-and-pop vape shops comprise an overwhelming percentage of this industry and represent the fastest-growing retail segment of the past ten years, a recent Labor Department analysis shows. A Wells Fargo analysis estimates that the commercial e-cigarette and vapor product industry is expected to be a $10 billion industry by next year, a growth trajectory that has significantly reduced combustible cigarette sales across the country. 

A vast majority of these businesses employ fewer than ten employees, making the shops that sell e-cigarettes to adults trying to quit smoking increasingly reliant on sensible federal regulations that don’t impose millions of dollars in costs through a FDA regulatory process designed purposefully by Congressional Democrats and the world’s largest tobacco companies to end in failure.

Billionaires like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg have long attempted to curtail individual rights and consumer freedom in the United States. He has already committed nearly $1 billion to anti-tobacco efforts globally, in seeking to influence organizations like the World Health Organization and fund research that demonizes adult smokers and adult vapers. On September 10, he announced a $160 million push to ban flavored e-cigarettes in America. Given your administration’s historic accomplishments and deregulatory agenda, it would be a mistake to allow HHS and the FDA to take marching orders from activists like Mike Bloomberg.

Adults like flavors. That’s precisely why everything from vodka to ice cream comes in a variety of flavors. When it comes to vaping, this holds true. Prior to the rise of JUU Lin 2018, more than 80% of adult vapers used fruit, dessert, and sweet flavors to stay away from cigarettes. Tobacco and menthol e-cigarette flavors ranked as the fifth and sixth most popular flavor before one company dominated the traditional convenience store market. 

Eliminating all but one or two of these options for adults would destroy thousands of small businesses, force many adult vapers to return to smoking, and force some to seek out products on the black market. 

Both the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now acknowledge that the recent deaths and respiratory and lung illnesses associated with vaping have largely been caused by the illicit marijuana and THC market. Instead of targeting legal nicotine products that have existed for a decade, the administration’s focus should be on cracking down on California drug dealers that are poisoning consumers with dangerous, unregulated, and counterfeit products sourced from places like China and Mexico.

Your administration can keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers without jeopardizing the great accomplishments that have been made in public health through the availability of vapor products for adults. We urge you to immediately halt the FDA’s planned actions that will limit choices for millions of American adults who rely on flavored vaping products to quit smoking. More than 100,000 jobs and the lives of 34 million adult smokers are on the line.


Grover Norquist

President, Americans for Tax Reform


Phil Kerpen

President, American Commitment


Daniel Schneider

Executive Director, American Conservative Union


Steve Posiask

President, American Consumer Institute


Ryan Ellis

President, Center for a Free Economy


Thomas Schatz

President, Citizens Against Government Waste


Jeff Stier

Senior Fellow, Consumer Choice Center


Michelle Minton

Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute


Katie McAuliffe

Executive Director, Digital Liberty


Jason Pye

Vice President of Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks


Julie Gunlock

Director of Center for Progress and Innovation, Independent Women’s Forum


Annette Meeks

CEO, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota


Naomi Lopez

Director of Healthcare Policy, Goldwater Institute


Mario H. Lopez

President, Hispanic Leadership Fund


Sal Nuzzo

Vice President of Policy, James Madison Institute


Seton Motley

President, Less Government


Michael LaFaive

Senior Director of Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, Mackinac Center for Public Policy


Brent Mead

CEO, Montana Policy Institute


Daniel J. Erspamer

President, Pelican Institute for Public Policy


Carrie Wade

Director of Harm Reduction Policy, R Street Institute


Becky Norton Dunlop

Senior Official, Reagan Administration and Member of the Trump Transition Team


Guy Bentley

Director of Consumer Freedom, Reason Foundation


Paul J. Gessing

President, Rio Grande Foundation


David Williams

President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance


Ashkhen Kazaryan

Director of Civil Liberties, TechFreedom


James L. Martin and Saulius “Saul” Anuzis

Founder/Chairman and President, 60 Plus Association

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A Trump Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes Will Cost Him the 2020 Election: Data on 12 Important Swing States

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, September 18th, 2019, 5:49 PM PERMALINK

Over the past week, President Donald Trump has been considering an outright ban on nearly every electronic cigarette and vapor product on the market. Not only would the implementation of a flavor ban be disastrous for public health, but it may cost Trump the election in 2020.

In a piece for the Washington Examiner, I explained:

"Internal polling conducted by Americans for Tax Reform in October 2016, just five months after the Obama administration announced their own timeline for a de facto e-cigarette ban, found that 4 out of 5 adult vapers' vote-moving issue was where a politician stood on the issue of taxing, regulating, and banning e-cigarettes."

Link to poll.

What might that mean in 2020? If you look at the 12 states which will likely determine the outcome of the election, based on the margin of victory or loss by Donald Trump in 2016 and changing political currents, there are at least 4.15 million adults in battleground states that use electronic cigarettes, according to FDA-funded survey data. Those states include Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, Arizona, and Nevada.

Here's how that breaks down per state (click to enlarge): 

(Click to enlarge an excel version of this graphic.)

If voter turnout holds flat in 2020 over 2016, there are roughly 2.55 million vaper voters scattered across these 12 key battleground states. The data on the number of adult vapers may underestimate the true figure because adult use of these products has increased in the last two years. To ignore that these adults have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes, something that they're proud of and strongly believe in would be among the biggest political miscalculations of the presidential campaign in 2020. Not only do these people rightly attribute the use of flavored nicotine products to saving their lives, but their family members, friends, and neighbors have likely heard their stories as well.

If Trump wants to depress voter turnout or turn voters away from his winning message in states where the margin of victory could be just a few thousand votes, banning flavored nicotine e-cigarettes would be a great way to go about it.

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Michigan Governor Announces Unilateral Plan to Ban Nearly All Electronic Cigarettes

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019, 10:40 PM PERMALINK

Today, Governor Grechen Whitmer (D-Mich.) announced plans for the first-in-the-nation statewide ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and vapor products. Her unprecedented actions were announced as part of a “public health emergency,” which she argues gives her the power to implement a ban without legislative approval. If implemented, this ban will destroy thousands of jobs, send hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers back to combustible cigarettes, and could create political turmoil in the swing state of Michigan. 

A version of the “Protection of Youth from Nicotine Product Addition Emergency Rules” obtained by Americans for Tax Reform sheds light on the shaky basis for the use of an “emergency” for prohibition. In the rule to be filed with the Secretary of State in the coming weeks, the governor argues: 

  • “Youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking combustible cigarettes”;
  • The youth “epidemic can be attributed to the appeal of flavored vapor and alternative nicotine products”;
  • “Prohibiting the retail sale of flavored vapor and alternative nicotine products will result in less product available on the market… which should ultimately result in decreased youth tobacco use.”

The ban applies to all flavored non-combustible nicotine products, including those with mint and menthol flavoring, and makes an absurd jump to over-criminalize the mere possession of vapor products. In an unpublished draft of the rules, “a person who possesses four or more flavored vapor products, or flavored alternative nicotine products is rebuttably presumed to possess said items with the intent to sell,” a misdemeanor offense and punishable with up to 6 months in prison in the state of Michigan. 

Criminalizing the possession of as few as four e-cigarettes flies in the face of voters’ growing sentiments about personal choices when it comes to consumer products, namely marijuana. In 2018, Michigan became the 10th state in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana when 56% of voters approved the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. The voter initiative legalized possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and allows homeowners to grow up to 12 plants of marijuana in their homes. Dispensaries are expected to open soon. 

The pending ban of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and new legalization of THC/marijuana, which can be consumed through e-cigarettes is puzzling. Adults in Michigan in 2020, under Gov. Whitmer’s agenda, will be able to smoke to get high but not vape nicotine to reduce their dependence on combustible cigarettes. 

Beyond consumer product liberalization paradoxes, this move also stands to harm public health. Millions of adults are using flavored e-cigarettes that contain nicotine to reduce or eliminate their dependence on cigarettes, the use of which results in the premature death of more than 400,000 American adults annually. The growing global scientific consensus is that compared to combustible cigarettes, e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes, a fact even acknowledged by the American Food and Drug Administration. Removing these products from store shelves will leave hundreds of thousands of current and former smokers few options other than to continue or return to smoking cigarettes, products untouched by the governor’s planned ban.

It should be noted that the basis of the governor’s ban is without merit on grounds of a “gateway effect” for vaping as well. Contrary to her claims, e-cigarettes have not proven to be a gateway to smoking, evident by the fact that despite youth experimentation with the products, smoking rates among teens has fallen in recent years. In fact, new data from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that only 2.7% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported smoking cigarettes in 2018, down from 3.2% in 2017. Even more compelling is the fact that youth initiation of cigarette use declined from 2.4% in 2017 to 2.3% in 2018. Overall, there has been a 79% decline in cigarette smoking since NSDUH first measured use in 2002. 

Data from the 2018 Monitoring the Future survey indicated a similar decline in use of cigarettes, down from 5.4% in 2017 to 4.6% in 2018 among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders (which included 18-year-olds who can legally smoke). This same survey indicated that past-month use of marijuana for seniors in high school stood at 22.2%, compared to 7.6% of seniors who had reported smoking cigarettes in the past month. 

Going even further into the available data to include the use of all traditional tobacco products (cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipe tobacco), just 4.2% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported use of these products in 2018, down from 4.9% in 2017 according to the NSDUH.

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There is no basis for the governor’s claim that adolescent experimentation with e-cigarettes is resulting in higher smoking rates among teens. As such, limiting the options that adults have in the consumer marketplace is clearly an attempt to generate national headlines in the name of a fake “public health emergency" without regard for the law, context for the use of other products, or public health consequences. 

Jacob Sullum at Reason notes, “Whitmer's e-cigarette ban rests on a breathtakingly broad reading of her authority to make emergency rules in the name of ‘public health,’ however she defines it.”

Even if the Republican-led legislature in Michigan fails to intervene, it is not likely that businesses or consumers will sit idly by as prohibition comes to pass.

The Vapor Technology Association responded to the announcement by saying that it “will evaluate every option at its disposal, including litigation, to prevent implementation of this ban. The Governor’s unprecedented misstep will force a mass exodus of products from the market and will result in what the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) itself has described as “a public health crisis” as a result.” VTA estimates that more than 1,200 jobs are and $51 million in state and local tax revenue is on the line with this decision.

The American Vaping Association responded by saying, "These businesses and their customers will not go down without a fight. We look forward to supporting the lawsuits that now appear necessary to protect the right of adults to access these harm reduction products."

Reports suggest that once finalized, the rule will provide retailers 30 days to clear out their inventory of flavored vapor products and will remain in effect for six months before subsequent regulatory and legislative actions are required.  

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ATR Leads Coalition Urging President Trump to Halt the FDA's Regulatory Assault on E-Cigarettes

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, February 4th, 2019, 12:30 AM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Reform President Grover Norquist led a coalition of free market, limited government, and conservative organizations calling on President Donald Trump to halt the Food and Drug Administration's aggressive regulatory assault on businesses who sell electronic cigarettes and vapor products in the United States. In recent months, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has acted in a manner inconsistent with the president's regulatory agenda, pressuring manufacturers to remove products from store shelves, suggesting new rules that would ban products currently on the market, and failing to act on pending product applications of innovative alternatives to cigarettes. Even worse, he's promised to go further.

As the letter explains:

"FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s effort to curb the $6.6 billion electronic cigarette industry and an even larger reduced risk tobacco alternatives market is inconsistent with your clearly articulated deregulatory objectives and will destroy jobs, limit consumer freedoms, and harm public health."

From the 2016 campaign to President Trump's first set of executive orders, deregulation has been a top priority for this administration. That agenda has had a positive impact on taxpayers and the conomy. 

"Your leadership, Orders, and deregulatory efforts have led to historic and important relief for the American people, with over $33 billion in savings alone through October of last year. Across every department and agency, your administration has not only identified harmful regulations but worked to untangle and repeal them, freeing consumers and businesses from the grip of government overreach. One glaring exception has been the Food and Drug Administration." 

President Trump's Executive Order 137771 not only directed agencies to eliminate two prior regulations for the creation of any new one, but it directed the Office of Management and Budget to create caps on and estimates for the cost of new rules imposed by agencies, like the FDA. For that reason, we suggest to the president:

"Consistent with your Executive Orders, an economic cost benefit analysis must be conducted that examines pending FDA guidance and potential new regulations with regards to this innovative industry."

Without an analysis on the economic impact of pressuring businesses to remove products from the retail distrubtion chain or failing to provide clarity on the government approval pathway for new products, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb's actions will be inconsistent with the president's Executive Order, pro-jobs, and economic growth agenda. 

The growing body of scientific evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes. Even further, a new study by the New England Journal of Medicine which found that e-cigarettes are twice as effective at getting smokers to quit as government-approved smoking cessation products like the nicotine patch. Given the high cost of cigarette use on public health expenditures across the United States, these products present adults aged 18 and over with real and increasingly effective choices that will save taxpayers billions of dollars and potentially save millions of lives. 

All of this comes at a cost of no longer being a leader on public health and missing out on investments in our economy. 

"Private sector initiative and sound public policy should not be held hostage by prohibitionist impulses. The FDA’s current efforts and attitude towards the e-cigarette industry make America a less appealing place to invest and do business. Countries around the world, including many throughout Europe have embraced this industry, encouraging doctors and medical professionals to recommend it to patients who smoke. Simply put, we are not a public health leader on the issue of utilizing the free market and innovation for tobacco harm reduction."

This broad coalition of limited government, free market, conservative, and consumer choice organizations is asking the president to pump the brakes on the FDA's new and pending regulatory efforts against an industry that is helping American smokers quit. 

A PDF of the letter and its signers can be found here. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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