A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its pants on, so goes the old saying often incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill. Incomplete and confusing reporting about vape-related deaths and illnesses has been spread far and wide, by major media outlets and reporters who should know better, but it appears that the truth now has its pants on and is starting to break through. Despite the nationwide media hysteria over vape products, there remains a possibility that cooler heads might still ultimately prevail.
Any day now the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce new regulations for flavored electronic cigarettes and vaping products. Though a blanket ban of flavored e-cigarette and vaping products had been initially feared by thousands of small business owners who stand to be ruined by such a ban, along with the millions of consumers who use flavored vape products as an alternative to more harmful cigarettes, it is now reported that the Trump administration is reconsidering that approach.
While this federal announcement, which has the potential to shutdown nearly 10,000 small businesses a few weeks before Christmas, is awaited anxiously by many, there has been an uptick in state-level activity in recent days and weeks related to the regulation and taxation of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.
It started with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who issued an executive order on September 15 banning flavored electronic cigarettes and vaping products in the Empire State. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the New York flavored vape ban, as is the case with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s vape ban in Michigan. These legal challenges have prevented both of those prohibitions from going into effect for the time being.
Lawsuits have also been filed against the flavored vape and e-cigarette bans issued through executive fiat by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D). Unlike the cases in Michigan and New York, the courts have allowed the Massachusetts and Rhode Island vape bans to take effect.
While blue state e-cig and vape bans are devastating to thousands of small businesses, they’re not a surprising development given the political makeup of those state governments.
A November 7 Bloomberg editorial published a similarly incomplete account of the situation while advocating for the federal e-cig/vape tax bill that passed out of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee in October. In that piece, the Bloomberg editorial board conflates deaths tied to the use of THC vaping products with legal nicotine-delivering e-cigarettes and vaping products, which have no ties to those deaths. The November 7 Bloomberg editorial did not mention to readers once that the vaping-related deaths are tied to illicit THC vape cartridges containing vitamin E acetate.
This author reached out to David Shipley, the Bloomberg senior editor responsible for the aforementioned editorial and asked why the Bloomberg editorial didn’t see fit to inform readers that the 37 deaths referenced in the editorial had nothing to do with legal, nicotine-delivering e-cig and vaping products that Bloomberg is calling for a new national tax on.
Shipley thus far has declined to comment as to why Bloomberg is still publishing confusingly incomplete information on this matter, even though there is now a wealth of evidence suggesting that the deaths are tied to the use of illegal, tainted THC vape cartridges.
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb deserves credit for shining a light on the true cause of vaping-related deaths and illnesses. During a November 11 appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Gottlieb confirmed that the vaping-related deaths are tied to illicit THC vape cartridges containing toxic additives, not products containing nicotine.
Though the truth is beginning to come out, the wave of confusing reporting on vaping has already had an impact, causing many people to be ill-informed on the topic.
“According to a Morning Consult poll conducted in September 58% of respondents believed people had ‘died from lung disease’ caused by ‘e-cigarettes’ based on what they had ‘seen, read, or heard on the news lately,” writes Joshua Cohen, a Forbes contributor. “Merely 34% of respondents said the cases involved ‘marijuana or THC e-cigarettes.’ Perhaps most striking of all, only 22% of respondents understood that e-cigarettes are generally considered less hazardous than the conventional kind.”
Given the bevy of confusingly incomplete coverage similar to the November 7 Bloomberg editorial, polling that shows the public to be so ill-informed about electronic cigarettes and vaping makes sense. Despite the persistence of confusingly incomplete reporting on the topic, the White House appears to be pumping the breaks on the national flavored vape ban.
In a sign that the White House is reconsidering its course, President Donald Trump tweeted today that he is convening a meeting of vaping industry representatives and health officials.