No doubt progressives embedded within the “public health deep state” thought they had President Trump boxed into a corner.

By Brent Stafford, November 18, 2019.

And just like that, the Trump flavor vape ban is dead. But for a heartwrenching two months, it appeared otherwise. After decades evangelizing the evils of smoking, five years of pumping the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping, and following 12-months of Juul inspired hysteria over the so-called youth vaping epidemic, President Trump (and the American public) were primed to fall for one of the biggest public health lies of all time: vaping kills.

Before the big lie could take hold, progressives had to contend with the growing (and pesky) consensus that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, vaping is an effective tool to quit smoking and that vaping saves lives.

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration searched diligently for a pretext to shift vaping’s positive narrative. And that pretext presented itself in the form of a mysterious lung illness, readymade to be exploited as corroborating evidence in the years-long effort to prove public health warnings about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

By late August reports of several deaths associated with the mysterious so-called “vaping-related” lung illness exploded across the media and in a matter of weeks hysteria over vaping led to a wholesale attack on vapers and the vaping industry. Bans on flavored vaping products were enacted by executive fiat in numerous U.S. states and currently, bans are under consideration in Canada as well.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump listen in the Oval Office as acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless talks about a plan to ban most flavored e-cigarettes. PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Trump entered the fray on Sept. 11, with a typically ill-advised announcement from the Oval Office that his administration would institute a national ban and clear the market of flavored vaping products. Trump made the announcement flanked by first lady Melania Trump and acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless. But behind the scenes loomed the CDC where officials hyped the hysteria by concealing critical facts which would have exonerated nicotine vaping products from the scare.

Simply the lung illnesses were vaping-related, but while thousands had fallen sick and dozens had died, the culprit was not nicotine vaping. The illnesses were a result of vaping illicit black-market cannabis products, not legal nicotine vaping products

As early as Sept. 6 reports in the media identified illicit THC vaping products as the cause of the lung illnesses. The public should have been warned then about the dangers of vaping cannabis products. Instead, CDC falsely conflated nicotine vaping as the cause and warned the public to stop using e-cigarettes and nicotine vaping products altogether. Millions of people were scared into giving up vaping and many likely returned to smoking.

CDC obfuscated for months and only on Nov. 8 did it announce a “breakthrough” correctly identifying tainted illicit cannabis products as the cause. How many people needlessly fell sick or even died as a result of CDC deception only time till tell. Surely, CDC’s inaction over the crisis could go down as one of the biggest public health scandals in American history.

CDC finally acknowledged on Nov. 8 that illicit black-market cannabis products were responsible for the vaping-related lung illnesses PHOTO: Shutterstock

No crisis should ever go to waste is the motto of many totalitarian thinkers

Members of the tobacco-control mafia played their part supporting the CDC in stoking fear, feeding the media beast and pressuring lawmakers to take action. Truth Initiative, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Truth Initiative, California Tobacco Control Program, Bloomberg and Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes, all called for sweeping bans on vaping products. Each pitting the interests of children over those of adults in a twisted display of moral righteousness and virtue signaling.

Re-enter Trump. Surrounded on all sides by braying progressives demanding that he take immediate action to save America’s children, the president—seemingly caught like a deer in the headlights—calculated that a national ban on flavored vaping products would engender goodwill and generate social capital with a voting demographic most adverse to his presidency: soccer moms. It was a trap!

Say what you want about progressives, they are strategic

Progressives knew something Trump and his advisors clearly didn’t know (at the time) and that is a ban on flavored vaping products would disproportionally affect Trump supporters. Nobody has better information about who smokes and vapes, where they live, how they are employed, what they earn and who they (likely) vote for than tobacco-control.

It took fine investigative work by Paul Blair from Americans for Tax Reform to raise alarm within the White House, the Trump campaign and with Republicans on Capitol Hill. Blair meticulously demonstrated that in each of the key swing states which Trump won by the slimmest of margins in 2016, vapers, who in 2020 are likely to be single-issue voters, smash those vote margins and by hundreds of thousands in some states.

IMAGE: @LegionVaping / Twitter

Reality began to sink in: A vape ban could cost Trump the presidency

Pile on the dawning realization that a national flavored vaping ban annihilates 14,000 small businesses, throws 150,000 American’s out of work, creates havoc for families and local communities, and destroys an entrepreneur-led, American made, multi-billion dollar a year industry. In addition, a ban would constitute a gigantic regulatory intervention into the personal lives of millions of Americans. None of this sounded like the promise of a Trump presidency.

When progressives set a trap, they set it well

Faced with growing pressure from vapers who flooded White House phone lines with tens of thousands of polite, yet firm appeals for the president to abandon his vaping ban. And, with growing concern voiced by Brad Parscale the campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign—Trump awoke and finally recognized the trap.

It should have been obvious at the outset for the president to realize that the very people pressuring him to enact a vaping ban are also his enemy on every other issue important to his presidency. Surely public health is part of the progressive deep state. FDA and CDC are bastions in the unaccountable regulatory apparatus that’s deeply antagonistic to the president’s agenda.

Trump probably thought, crap!

Trump must have asked himself: Why would I think FDA and CDC are any different than the State Department or the intelligence services? The deep state doesn’t have my interests or the interests of my supporters at heart on any issue. Why should I believe them now?

Come to think of it, why didn’t my HHS Secretary and FDA Commissioner inform me that there were two sides to the debate and then brief me about how countries like Canada, and especially the UK, have made vaping products legal and fully endorse them as vital tools to help people quit smoking? I think I’ve have been lied to.

Why didn’t my political team clue-in to the fact that archenemy Michael Bloomberg is the single-biggest private funder of anti-vaping propaganda, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year?

Why didn’t I notice that vaping bans are a Democratic issue? How come my political advisors didn’t wake up to the fact that a dozen Democratic Senators have been writing letters and harping at the FDA to ban vaping products for years.

Why didn’t my media team point out the same fake news organizations in mainstream media that lie about me day-in and day-out are the same peddlers of vaping misinformation and hysteria?

Why didn’t my economic advisors inform me about the huge American success story that the vaping business has become and what the impact would be if I launched a vaping ban?

Worst of all, how could my public health team stand in the Oval Office and tell me straight-out that e-cigarettes are responsible for the horrendous lung deaths gripping the nation and that in order to protect the American public I must issue orders to remove millions of nicotine products from the market, while knowing all along it was pot products responsible for the illnesses?

CDC issues alert regarding mysterious lung illness attributed to the use of e-cigarettes on Aug. 30. IMAGE: RegWatch

Trump recognized the enemy

It must have stung when Trump finally realized that he had been led by the nose into announcing a vaping ban. Typically, Trump is very astute in recognizing common traits among the enemies he shares across various issues. How he could have misconstrued vaping opponents as allies I chalk up to his life-long aversion to substance use.

Trump has never consumed alcohol or smoked. He watched his older brother drink himself to death. And it’s a 200-year old maxim of the temperance movement that tobacco use leads to drunkenness.

Also, it’s certain that over his years in the construction business he’s lost employees who smoked, if not loved ones, to cancer and heart disease. Trump likely thought he would be saving lives with a vaping products ban.

Lung illness and death are essential to the progressive plan

Public health and its allies in the tobacco-control mafia desperately needed to bully the President into ordering a national ban on vaping products. It had to be now. Before the truth came out about how the CDC purposely deceived the public over the cause of the vaping-related lung illnesses and how the government agency could be found complicit in dozens of recent deaths, and potentially, millions more when those scared from vaping back to smoking begin dying of cancer and smoking-related diseases.

The lung-illness hysteria offered a genuine opportunity to forever destroy the “virtues of vaping” by shifting the risk profile of nicotine vaping from less harmful, to as deadly or deadlier than smoking. Time was of the essence for progressives to realize this shift as the realities of FDA’s Premarket Tobacco Application process means, come May 2020, the entire U.S. vaping industry will be demolished anyway.

By design FDA’s PMTA process is guaranteed to annihilate 14,000 small businesses, throw 150,000 Americans out of work, extinguish 95% of U.S. e-juice manufacturing and destroy adult access and choice to vaping products. Come May, during an election year, FDA would be responsible for wholesale destruction and upheaval in thousands of communities across the nation. How could the government agency justify such heavy-handed regulatory action? Indeed, how could they enforce it?

FDA and its progressive partners desperately (hysterically) needed to pin real death onto nicotine vaping in order to be able to shut the entire industry down next May. It’s simply inconceivable how the regulator could have implemented the clearing of the market of vaping products unless there was a public health emergency underway.

Yet, there’s a limit on how long progressives could extend good fortune as people would need to keep dying between now and next May, in order to extend the lung illness hysteria. It’s not possible, even for progressives to continue the slaughter of innocents for that long.

This is why at this exact moment progressives pushed the president so hard to implement the vaping ban. They needed him to do the dirty work they would be unable to do in May; finish the hit job on vaping.

National media reported cannabis vaping products linked to deadly lung illness on Sept 6. It took CDC another two-months before it would publicly announce the same on Nov. 8. IMAGE: RegWatch

Trump’s Vaping Ban is Dropped

In welcome news, the White House announced on Nov. 17 that the Trump flavor ban is dead. Concern over jobs in critical battleground states played a determining role in the decision. As Reason.com reports:

Officials said the blowback to Trump’s vow to ban most flavored e-cigarettes had rattled him. In an aggressive social media campaign—#IVapeIVote—advocates claimed the ban would shut down thousands of shops, eliminating jobs and sending vapers back to cigarettes. The president saw protesters at events and read critical articles. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, privately warned the ban could hurt him in battleground states, said a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Trump was now upset with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who had taken the lead in rolling out the plan, said three officials familiar with the discussions.

In anticipation of the president backtracking on the proposed ban Gregg Haifley, the director of federal relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told Bloomberg on Nov. 15 that “With every day of delay, our kids are picking up these products and becoming addicted,” and that “We want Congress or the FDA to permanently remove the flavors from the market that we know are used to target kids, and act in the interest of public health.”

A new trap is laid

So, if the impact of a flavor ban on jobs is so great today and must be avoided, what would be different come May 2020 when FDA moves to enforce rules regarding the PMTA? The answer: there is no difference.

The same detrimental impact on jobs, the economy and on the health and well-being of vapers awaits.

What’s different is the opportunity now afforded to the vaping industry. In a monumental over-reach, progressives inflated and distorted a genuine public health crisis in order to shove vaping onto the lap of the president, with the hopes of fooling him into signing a national vaping ban. What happened instead is that the president awoke to the issue and could, with the right help, become a strong ally to vaping. That is if the vaping industry does not walk itself into a well-worn trap: complacency.

Yes, it is conceivable that with no additional cannabis-related vaping deaths for the CDC to egregiously attribute to nicotine vaping and considering the public has a short attention span, the environment could reset to pre-lung scare era. But what then?

The vaping industry still faces an intransigent and grotesquely over-funded opposition. And the FDA has proven time and again to be incapable of delivering anything but an industry killing regulatory pathway.

The only path forward is for the vaping industry to take up the reins and devise a “third way” that involves enshrining steps already taken by Juul and other big tobacco brands to limit youth access, while at the same time, providing an easier cost-effective path for e-juice manufacturers to stay on the market.

At a minimum, the vaping industry must fight for its life on removing the PMTA requirement that all vaping products must demonstrate a net benefit to public health.

The U.S. vaping industry must not sit on its laurels and wait for the FDA to improve its guidance: it’s not going to happen. The industry must now embrace Trump. And deliver to him a reasonable plan that allows e-juice companies to stay in operation, retail shops to stay open and that also protects the public and keeps devices out of the hands of kids.

It’s always in the worst of times that the greatest of opportunities present themselves. This could be one of those times. And Trump is that opportunity. Whether you like him or not.

Brent Stafford – RegulatorWatch.com – November 18, 2019.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. What Trump should be thinking about, is kids have been getting addicted to nicotine for decades. Previously it was via cigarettes. Now teen smoking is down, while teen vaping is up. I am not saying it is ok for teens to vape, but it a damn sight better than those teens smoking tobacco, weed or drinking alcohol, or worse drugs.

  2. Brent, That’s very well written. I’m in the UK and I feel for all those across the pond that are going through this hard time. The truth will out in the end. We in the UK hope Trump does the right thing by you guys and both the CDC and FDA are brought to book.

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