Election 2016: what does it mean for vaping?

Americans went to the polls Tuesday and voted for change, but will it mean good things for vapers?

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President Donald Trump

American voters defied expectations Tuesday and delivered a narrow victory for Donald Trump, a first-time candidate with no political or government experience. For the second time in the last five elections, the president earned an electoral college majority without winning the popular vote.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, received just three percent of the vote. Johnson was the only candidate with a declared pro-vaping position, opposing the FDA’s deeming regulations and supporting adult access to vapor products and a free market.

What will the presidential election mean for vapers? It’s uncertain, but there is hope that a Republican Congress with a Republican president might create a pathway for modifying the Tobacco Control Act to expressly separate vapor products from the tobacco definition imposed by the deeming regulations.

What is likely is that Trump will be eager to reverse almost anything that President Obama implemented.

That will be a difficult process though, and as of now, no one knows where Donald Trump stands on vaping. His history is full of anti-smoking rhetoric, but no one knows if he will see vaping as a danger similar to smoking or a solution. The answer may depend on who advises him, and we don’t know who will be doing that.

What is likely is that Trump will be eager to reverse almost anything that President Obama implemented. That means that his cabinet appointments, like the Secretary of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, will probably change course on many Obama initiatives in federal agencies. That could bode well for vaping.

Mike Pence, who will be the next vice president, is well known to vapers as the governor who signed the crony capitalist vaping law in Indiana. Despite that, it’s doubtful that Pence has a formed opinion on e-cigarettes either; he probably cared less about the law’s content than he did about pleasing the people who advised him to sign it.

Congress: no major changes

Republicans maintained their majorities in the House and Senate, which will make whatever Trump proposes easier to pass. Unified government will also encourage Republican legislators to propose laws that would be unlikely to win passage with a Democratic president.

Sen. Ron Johnson won his race in Wisconsin, which had been in doubt. Johnson has been the most reliable ally to vapers in Congress, demanding answers from the FDA on its deeming rule. Many credit vapers for pushing Johnson over the top, including the senator himself.

The most annoying opponent to vaping in the Senate also won. Democrat Richard Blumenthal was reelected in Connecticut to his second term. Also winning reelection was Sen. Richard Burr, Republican from North Carolina, who has publicly urged consideration of vapor products as harm reduction tools during Senate hearings.

In the House of Representatives, both sponsors of the Cole-Bishop amendment won reelection by wide margins. Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Democrat Sanford Bishop of Georgia were both sent back to Congress.

Ballot initiatives: a crushing blow in California

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California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 56, which will increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack, but also add a tax to vapor products that may be 70 percent or higher. Most of the money generated by the new tax will go directly to insurance companies and special interest groups, without requiring any new services to California residents. The vapor tax was buried in the tobacco initiative to ensure passage.

There is fear that the new tax, which will apply to all nicotine-containing vapor products, will destroy California’s vaping industry, forcing small companies into bankruptcy and large ones to flee the state.

Better news came from North Dakota, where Ballot Measure 4 was defeated with a 62 percent vote. That measure would have added a 56 percent wholesale tax to tobacco products, and included vapor products as tobacco for the first time.

Pennsylvania: vaping advocate Chris Hughes comes up short

Pamela Gorman and Chris Hughes
Pamela Gorman and Chris Hughes

In the 84th legislative district in Pennsylvania, vape shop owner and industry advocate Chris Hughes lost his write-in campaign against Rep. Garth Everett. While the idea of a write-in candidacy was always a long shot, Chris’s many friends in the vape community had hopes that he might strike a blow against the legislature that had put many vape shops out of business with a 40 percent tax on vapor products. Everett had voted for the tax.

Cannabis legalization

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Seven states legalized cannabis Tuesday, including the first southern states. California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine joined four others (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) and the District of Columbia in allowing users to possess and use marijuana for recreation. In Arizona, recreational use was defeated.

Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota residents voted for legal medical marijuana use, and Montana eased restrictions. Florida and Arkansas are the first states in the south to approve legal cannabis use. More than half the country now has access to some form of legal cannabis. Advocates are especially elated about the California win. The country’s largest state is always a bellwether for trends of any sort, and is also a center of cannabis agriculture.

“This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “With California’s leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching.”

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Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • A bunch of the CA vaping companies I met last week mentioned plans to shut down after PMTAs are due or move to Nevada.

    • Jim McDonald

      I imagine everyone will shut down when they’re due (August 2018) if we can’t get the regs amended or tossed in court.