Trump calls on FDA to ban flavored vapes, misses the real issue with vaping illness

Trump calls on FDA to ban flavored vapes, misses the real issue with vaping illness

Oh boy — here we go again. There’s currently an epidemic of vaping-related illness going across the United States, and while the CDC has yet to find a specific cause, all signs so far point to an additive used in vape cartridges, likely made to sell on the black market, where a lack of quality standards means almost anything can end up in the oil that you’re vaping. There is definitely cause for concern here (and the CDC has recommended that everyone stop all vaping completely until the cause for illness is found), but instead of, you know, reasonably and carefully working to figure out a cause and then putting a system in place to fix it, President Donald Trump has instead decided to ban all flavored vapes.

You would think that misinformation and scare tactics have done enough damage through the War on Drugs, but apparently it’s not over yet. During a meeting in the Oval Office, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (who, you may not be surprised to hear, formerly worked as an executive and lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company) blamed the vaping problem not on a lack of regulation and quality standards for tobacco alternatives and legal cannabis, but the fact that more children than ever say that they use e-cigarette devices. Azar added that within a few weeks, the FDA would shut down sales of all flavored vaping products.

Now here’s the thing: We have no problem keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of children. And it’s worth pointing out that most of the conversation by the administration is not about THC or cannabis at all (which, we’ll remind you, is indeed a factor in most of the illness cases found so far), but about e-cigarette style vaping. The fact is that the burgeoning cannabis industry likely won’t be hurt at all by a ban on e-cigarettes of any kind — even if dispensaries decide to stop selling THC oil vape pens, they can still sell edibles, flower, or other types of products without issue.

But all of that complexity aside, a ban on e-cigarettes, or even just flavored vapes, is not the solution to our current problem at all. The first step for our current problem is to let the CDC do its job and figure out exactly what’s causing this illness. It could be an additive, it could be one specific product, or it could be something else entirely.

And then, once the cause is determined, the next step will be to craft some smart regulations to make sure that we can avoid this problem in the future. A blanket ban on vaping is not a smart regulation — it’s only going to make more trouble for vape manufacturers, hurt people who have benefited from vaping (who are preventing other health problems by vaping instead of smoking), and it’s only going to allow vape makers to further dodge standards or even go into less-than-legal markets. Instead, we need clear quality standards around vaping products, both THC and otherwise. We need clear and comprehensive testing methods and a high quality bar, and we need to punish manufacturers that don’t follow those standards. And eventually, to do this with THC and cannabis, we’re going to need to make cannabis legal on the federal level.

Banning these items doesn’t work (just look at what banning cannabis has done to this country), and it only creates more problems. It’s true — people have died and been hospitalized because of this illness, and action does need to be taken. But it should be action that helps us and moves things forward, not a mindless ban driven by hysterical worries about “America’s youth” that will only make things worse.

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