Veterans across the country are slamming the federal government’s impending effort to crush the vaping industry with expensive regulations.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule in May forcing all vape products to be regulated the same way as cigarettes and it’s threatening to upend the domestic market. The move will force electronic cigarette vendors to submit a pre-market tobacco application for their products to the FDA for approval. The new regulations, which will be fully implemented in 2018, threaten to eliminate 99 percent of vaping products from the market, reports Great Falls Tribune.
The smoking rate and general tobacco use is disproportionately higher among veterans than the general population of the U.S., and veterans rely on vaping as a tool for quitting traditional tobacco products. Just 32 percent of veterans said they have never smoked cigarettes, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“During the years I worked in Veterans Services, there was one thing I saw constantly – tobacco use,” Will Cohen, founder of the Vape a Vet Project, wrote in a recent op-ed. “Veterans and service members deserve the right to a tobacco alternative.”
The Vape a Vet Project is a non-profit charity group that helps active duty and former service members quit traditional tobacco products. The group takes donations to provide a free “starter kit” to any veteran looking to quit smoking. The kit includes an e-cigarette device, a 30 milliliter bottle of liquid nicotine and two tanks.
Many health experts argue that promoting vaping over traditional tobacco aids the public health, while harsh regulations make smokers less likely to use the device to quit. Nevertheless, states took steps on election night to impose new sales taxes on vaping; some activists claiming e-cigarettes are extending the “tobacco epidemic.”
Anti-vaping activist argue the devices are helping get a new generation of children addicted to nicotine, but the evidence to support these claims is thin. The United Kingdom actually promotes the sale of e-cigarettes as a health conscious alternative to smoking.
Evidence suggests e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes, because the majority of cancer causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke. A study found that nearly all of the 2.6 million e-cigarette users in the U.K. are former or current smokers, many using the device to quit, according to the R Street Institute.
“Some estimates indicate roughly two million ex-smokers are using vaping products in our country today,” Ron Marshall, a vape shop owner in Montana, wrote in the Great Falls Tribune. “If the FDA removes virtually all vaping products from the market, I have little doubt that many of those ex-smokers will return to traditional cigarettes. From a public health perspective, that outcome would run contrary to the mission of the FDA.”
Many local vape vendors are anticipating closure within the next two years due to the recent FDA decision. Vendors and manufactures have until Aug. 8 2018 to submit the applications for their products, which range in cost from $100,000 to $400,000 dollars each.
Earlier this year the House of Representatives passed the Cole-Bishop amendment, which would curtail much of the onerous requirements from the FDA’s decision. The Senate has yet to vote on the amendment, but vaping advocates, especially from veteran groups, are hopeful for its passage.
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