A new HarrisX poll shows that vapers could be a potent force in the 2022 midterm elections, which are now less than a month away. That could be bad news for Democrats in Congress, most of whom follow their party’s guidance and have supported taxes and flavor restrictions on nicotine vaping products.
The poll estimates that 29 percent of all registered voters vaped in the past 30 days. That is a significant part of the voting population that should be listened to by lawmakers and candidates. Of those, 51 percent vape daily and 54 percent no longer use combustible tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars.
Of the registered voters who vape that were surveyed by HarrisX, 68 percent said they are somewhat or very likely to vote for a candidate based solely on their alignment on vaping issues. Among those who identify as Democrats, even a higher percentage—79 percent—said they would be likely to base votes on vaping policies alone.
Among those polled, 65 percent said they would definitely or probably vote in the Nov. 8 election. On top of that, 78 percent of polled vapers said they are somewhat or very likely to speak out on issues related to vaping. That could make them influential among non-vaping voters in their circles.
However, vapers identifying with the two major parties remain mostly loyal to their tribes. Democrats who vaped in the past 30 days widely approve of President Joe Biden’s performance (88 percent versus 30 percent for Republican vapers). And most vapers from both parties said they would probably vote for congressional candidates from their own parties (Dems 94 percent, Republicans 87 percent).
The survey was conducted in early October by HarrisX, polling 1,519 registered voters who used vaping products in the past 30 days. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. According to HarrisX, the results “were weighted for gender, age, income, race/ethnicity, education, and political party within the US, where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in each national population.”
The poll was commissioned by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a conservative organization that promotes lower taxes and limiting the government’s power to tax. ATR, which has supported vaping for years. also commissioned a poll of vapers in 2019 to illustrate to President Donald Trump the political risk he would take by banning flavored vaping products. ATR is also sponsoring the current We Vape We Vote ‘22 Tour.
Many of the answers about specific policies show Democrats are more likely than Republicans to favor taxes and regulation—even policies that will restrict vapers’ ability to access the products they like. That finding shows that a large percentage of people who vape are poorly informed on the issue, and most are not immune to news coverage that over-represents anti-vaping positions. (Also remember that half of the surveyed voters don’t vape daily, and about half still smoke.)
An amazing 48 percent of all vaping voters are in favor of banning internet sales of vapor products, with Democrats more supportive (58 percent) than Republicans (37 percent). Much closer, but still disturbing, 44 percent of those polled support a ban on vape flavors, including 51 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans.
Some of the responses regarding specific policy positions reflect Republicans’ general mistrust of (and Democrats’ support for) regulation by federal agencies, but a significant chunk of the Republican vaper population is also surprisingly supportive of restrictive rules.
For example, 62 percent of voters who have vaped in the past 30 days support “requiring all e-vapor products to comply with rules imposed by the FDA that could take many products off the market.” While more Democrats (73 percent) support that position, 52 percent of Republicans also agree.
If we did a scientific poll of Vaping360 readers—or vaping advocates on Twitter, or CASAA members—the results would probably be much different. But even most frequent vapers don’t think of themselves as vapers, in the sense of being part of a movement, and they’re not especially well-informed on the issues around vaping, or politically active on behalf of vapers’ rights. Most people who vape are just as susceptible as the general population to the misinformation that rules the public discourse around vaping.
However, they know that they like vaping. And they intend to keep doing it—even if lawmakers and regulators try to prevent them.
Despite their individual responses to specific policy positions, registered voters who vape—from both parties—generally believe that the federal government should not prevent them from using vaping as a harm reduction tool.
Reacting to the statement “The government should not create obstacles, like e-vapor product taxes and restrictions, for adults who want to use an alternative to cigarettes,” a whopping 83 percent of past-30 day vapers strongly or somewhat agree, including 86 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans. And 84 percent agreed that the government should not be able to take away an adult’s right to enjoy a legal product.
What will they do if the government does try to eliminate their vaping options? If Congress or the FDA were to ban flavored vaping products, 21 percent said they would use “unflavored” (which presumably includes tobacco-flavored) vapes. Another 31 percent said they would switch to tobacco products (a group that probably includes many of the 46 percent that still smoke).
But 29 percent answered that they would “find another way” to get flavored products. That other way is participating in a black market.
That shouldn’t shock anyone—least of all the FDA—because gray and black vaping product markets are already operating. When the FDA removed enforcement discretion protecting flavored pod-based vaping products nearly three years ago, a huge portion of vaping consumers responded by switching to flavored disposable vapes.
The disposable vape market is now approaching the size of the legitimate market in the convenience store/gas station segment. If Congress or the FDA were to ban flavors outright, demand for flavored products would not go away. Rather, the gray and black markets would quickly expand to fill the need.
Candidates for Congress should take note of that survey response. Nearly a third of registered voters who vape—about 10 percent of the whole voting population—are willing to defy any federal ban of flavored vaping products.
Whatever a candidate’s personal beliefs about vaping may be, ignoring the reality that a large portion of the public is willing to ignore the law and participate in an illegal enterprise to get flavored products should give them pause when it comes to passing laws. Congress should accept reality and recognize the desires of this significant group of constituents.