Industry trade group the Vapor Technology Association (VTA) is reportedly spending more than $100,000 to place a 30-second commercial on Fox News for a week, beginning today. The ad is targeted at President Donald Trump, who is a fan of the cable news channel.
The content of the ad is quite clever, offering an opportunity for the President to back down gracefully from his promise to ban flavored vapes and blame it instead on one of his favorite targets: the regulatory state. In this case the villain would be Trump’s own Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees the FDA.
HHS Sec. Alex Azar has been a leader in the effort to ban non-tobacco flavors, although it will be the FDA Center for Tobacco Products that creates the actual rule. Sources in the administration insist plans for a flavor ban are proceeding on course, despite a CASAA-led White House phone call campaign and objections from conservative activists.
The ads will run only on Fox News in select markets, according to The Hill. Although VTA hasn’t specified which markets, Washington, D.C. is presumably one of them. The commercial will air during the day—including during Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite morning program—and also online.
“President Trump is keeping his promises,” says the ad’s narrator. “His new executive orders require government agencies follow the law. Despite President Trump’s efforts, bureaucrats are considering a huge new overreach. They’re considering banning flavored vapor. Vaping is at least 95 percent safer than smoking. But if the government bans flavored vapor, 150,000 jobs…gone. Millions will resort to cigarettes—or the black market. Banning flavors will imperil our health, and our booming economy.”
The ad is well thought-out. Although it targets Trump directly, it will also appeal to conservative viewers in general. The focus on nameless bureaucrats, job losses, and preserving the booming economy is likely to gain sympathy from Republican and free markets viewers who may not have considered those aspects of the vaping controversy.
However, the problem in the White House may not be that HHS advisers are steering the President toward a ban. It might be pressure from a much more influential source: his wife.
Melania Trump is supposedly behind the President’s sudden wish to ban flavored vaping products. In the days before the President’s announcement, Mrs. Trump had tweeted about her “concern” about vaping, using language suspiciously reminiscent of anti-vaping true believers.
More recently, she hosted a White House event with tobacco control activist group the Truth Initiative. Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway was also there, enthusiastically promoting the anti-vaping cause. Conway, who is the White House point person on the opioid crisis, has approved a project by Truth Initiative with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
It’s difficult to imagine President Trump opposing his wife’s anti-vaping position because of a TV commercial, but it’s possible. And at this point, anything is worth a try. The VTA is also suing the FDA to prevent enforcement of the new May 2020 deadline for submitting premarket tobacco applications.