Is there any doubt which member of Congress is the most committed anti-vaping zealot? You already know the answer. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat, just won reelection, and he appears full of vim and vigor and ready to continue his war on vaping. He’s full of something anyway.
Having failed before to pass a law preventing airline passengers from carrying vape gear onto U.S. planes, Blumenthal is now using his platform in the senate to urge the airlines to act on their own to keep e-cigarettes off flights. And what could be better to advance the cause than some convenient battery incidents in the news?
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules already prohibit use of vapor products on flights and transporting them in checked baggage. But that’s never been good enough for Blumenthal. Earlier this year, he proposed legislation that would keep vapor products off of planes entirely.
The bill didn’t address other products — like laptops, tablets and mobile phones — that present the same battery risks as e-cigs. But solving a real problem has never been Blumenthal’s goal. He sees attacking vaping as an easy way to score political points with minimum loss of votes. After all, vaping looks like smoking, and everyone hates smoking, right? Close enough for Blumenthal.
What happens when vapers have no device or e-liquid when their flights land? Sadly, many will probably grab the most widely available and convenient nicotine product. As with all restrictions on low-risk products, an airline ban would force many vapers back to cigarettes.
Sen. Blumenthal wrote individual letters to 13 airlines, asking that they do what he was unable to do through Congress: ban all vapor products from domestic air travel. He also wrote FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, urging the FDA to act immediately to recall every “e-cigarette model” that has exploded — neatly ignoring that nearly every incident has been caused by user error or mishandling batteries.
“First, all e-cigarette models that have exploded should be immediately recalled,” writes the lawmaker. “Such dangerous products must also be removed from store shelves, online marketplaces, and out of the mouths and pockets of consumers.”
In his letters to the airlines, Blumenthal insists that vape mods are capable of random spontaneous explosions. He also claims that industry standards for computers and cell phones prevent such incidents from occurring with those products. Of course, that’s JUST not true. All manner of electronic devices are potential fire hazards, despite manufacturers’ best efforts.
Blumenthal’s letters recount his failed effort to pass legislation earlier this year, and then promise to “push again for a ban next year.” He closes by asking the airlines to act on their own. “After so many warnings and red flags, it is imperative for your industry to act to ensure these dangerous devices remain permanently grounded.” Cute.
Vapers need to be prepared for a letter-writing campaign when Sen. Blumenthal makes good on his promise to propose a ban next year. Never doubt the possibility that a hard-working fear monger could use alarming news stories as a tool to promote legislation that might be difficult for even sympathetic legislators to oppose. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is already mining the same vein of rich panic.
Blumenthal proved he’s willing to say anything to get what he wants when, during his first senate campaign, he lied outright about having served in Vietnam (he didn’t). The man may be a clown, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take him seriously and be prepared to call out his lies on a moment’s notice.