Vaping has become a public health crisis. As of last Tuesday, there have been six U.S. deaths attributed to the e-cigarettes, and nearly 500 have been sickened with lung disease or other ailments. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are conducting investigations into the health effects of vaping products. Neither has established a link between respiratory illnesses and any specific product.
Nonetheless, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have decided it’s time for drastic action. Meeting with journalists on Wednesday, the president announced his administration was seeking a ban on all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes to combat teen vaping and the spread of a mystery illness that has sickened hundreds. “We can’t have our youth be so affected,” President Trump said. “People are dying with vaping, so we’re looking at it very closely.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar agreed, telling reporters at the White House: “Kids are getting access to these products despite our best efforts at enforcement ... so we simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they’ve secured FDA approval if they can.”
Azar explained that after a 30-day effective date, all flavored e-cigarettes will be provisionally banned until each product receives FDA approval. However, because the administration has determined the tobacco-flavored vapes are useful in helping adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, those products will not be affected by the new ruling.
But if the administration has the ability to ban flavored e-cigarettes, why doesn’t it go all in and save thousands more lives by completely banning all tobacco products?
Is a total ban on all flavored e-cigarette products the correct response to an illness affecting a tiny fraction of vapers? Millions of Americans have been vaping for years. Commentary magazine noted on Wednesday that a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 84% of those “sickened by vaporized inhalants reported using unlicensed marijuana-related products.”
While we believe smoking any substance is unhealthy and dangerous, an administrative ban on a legal product is not something we support. That decision is Congress’ to make. That body is, after all, responsible for making laws and providing for the nation’s general welfare, not the president or his cabinet.
One of the biggest complaints opponents had against President Barack Obama was his constitutional overreach. Not shy about voicing his frustration with Congress’ often snail-like pace, Obama frequently used executive orders and heavy-handed rulings by federal agencies to institute new regulations on everything from immigration to health care to the environment.
Conservatives and other critics were right to disagree with the Obama administration’s sidestepping of Congress. They should be just as upset with this president’s plans.