Schumer Attacks Vape Company Disrupting Big Tobacco’s Cigarette Trade

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is continuing his crusade against the vaping industry, attacking a company directly linked to declines in cigarette sales.

Schumer’s office issued a press release Monday highlighting remarks from school officials in central New York that attack the JUUL e-cigarette, a brand proving immensely popular with adult smokers attempting to quit combustible tobacco. He is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to “rid the marketplace of kid-friendly e-cig flavors,” reported the Observer-Dispatch.

Peter Blake, superintendent of the Rome City School District, organized fellow educators outside Fayetteville-Manlius High School Monday in an attempt to pressure the FDA to ban flavored vapor products. (RELATED: JUUL Popularity Drives Six Percent In US Cigarette Sales)

“The fight against electronic cigarette use and “Juuling” is larger than the concerns involved with the lack of regulation on ingredients; it’s the fight against addiction,” said Blake, according to the Observer-Dispatch.

Officials at Rome Free Academy, a local high school, are so concerned about students vaping they recently removed the entrance doors for the school’s bathrooms. Vaping advocates agree the products should be kept out of the hands of underage users, however, data on teen use simply does not justify the hysteria.

A large amount of teens are experimenting with e-cigarettes, but teen smoking is declining to historic lows. Renowned tobacco researchers Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Greece and Dr. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania in Italy found regular use of electronic cigarettes is “rare” among youths who do not smoke.

A 2017 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed after a rapid increase in youth vaping between 2011 and 2015, the number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016.

Schumer appeared determined to ignore the bevy of positive science on vaping to create a “moral panic,” which harm-reduction experts argued contradicts his support for legalizing marijuana at the federal level.

“Given that more teens use marijuana than e-cigarettes, despite marijuana being illegal at the federal level, it’s hard to square abandoning marijuana prohibition, on the one hand, with banning a large category of the most popular tool for quitting smoking,” Guy Bentley, a consumer freedom research associate at the Reason Foundation, said in a recent op-ed for the Washington Examiner. “Hundreds of articles have been published in the past few weeks citing anecdotal evidence of mass ‘Juuling’ in high-schools, hopelessly addicted teens, and unsubstantiated claims of a ‘gateway’ to smoking. True to form, Schumer has decided this is a bandwagon he and others should jump on.”

Despite Schumer’s fears, the popularity of JUUL is causing a significant disruption of big tobacco’s cigarette sales. A recent analysis of Nielsen data by researchers at Citi argued a sharp acceleration in sales for JUUL in the fourth quarter of 2017 is directly responsible for a six percent decline in U.S. cigarette volumes in the first quarter of 2018.

It also appears flavors are key to the popularity of vaping among adults, as they help smokers dissociate with the taste of tobacco and ultimately quit.

Harm-reduction experts say that calling on the FDA to halt the sale of flavored products risks upending the vapor industry and hurting smokers who have successfully quit with e-cigarettes, while simultaneously protecting Big Tobacco’s cigarette trade.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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