States Take Regulatory Measures to Protect Youth from E-Cigarettes

Over the past decade, electric cigarettes or commonly referred to as e-cigarettes have become a blossoming market as technology has upgraded traditional cigarettes.  The e-cigarette industry has urged that vaping is a “safer” method of smoking. In August 2019, e-cigarettes claimed its first victim.  Earlier this year, the Center for Disease Control reported the hospitalization of a young man in Illinois for a respiratory related illness that was attributed to vaping. Eventually the young man succumbed to his illness.  Since the first incident, the CDC has attributed an additional thirty three respiratory-related deaths to routine vaping habits.

Why is vaping so popular? As technology evolves, so does the method people used to inhale tobacco.  Whether the delivery is a pipe, a cigar, a cigarette, or—today’s method—e-cigarettes, tobacco is tobacco is tobacco.  Regardless of the tobacco product, the use of tobacco increases health risk of the user. The popularity of vaping grew when companies released flavored vaping oils and tobacco products, which attracts a new, younger market.

If you offer a child a lollipop, they will gladly accept it, so comes as no surprise that teenagers and young adults are attracted to e-cigarettes, especially with flavors like strawberries or cotton candy.  States have tried to address this issue by passing statutes to restrict the minimum age requirement to purchase e-cigarettes to 18 or 21.  This hasn’t stopped teenagers and young adults from purchasing e-cigarettes.  The United States Surgeon General reported in 2018 that e-cigarette use increased among high schoolers by 78%.  So, what can the legislature do to discourage the sale of e-cigarettes to young people?

States are considering passing statutes prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other e-cigarette regulations.  In the meantime, state executive offices have taken the lead on dealing with this issue.  Montana Governor Steve Bullock directed the Montana Department of Health and Human Services to issue a temporary ban on flavored e-cigarettes until the state can determine what type of action to proceed with.  Montana is not alone; Michigan has also banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

Other states have taken this battle into the courthouse.  The state of New York has filed suit against twenty-two online flavored e-cigarette vendors accusing them of creating a “public nuisance” by selling targeted flavors to youths under the state age limit.

State regulation has not gone unnoticed by the e-cigarette industry.  One of the largest e-cigarette retailers, JUUL, has announced it will suspend the sales of flavored e-cigarettes.  This isn’t the only change at JUUL. In September, the retailer replaced its CEO, Kevin Burns, with K.C. Crosthwaite, the CGO for Altria, a traditional tobacco company.  JUUL also announced it will suspend all television, print, and digital advertisements.  The e-cigarette industry is feeling the financial effects of the various bans.  Altria reported a 19% loss in stock prices over since the beginning of 2019.

Even with all the government regulation and voluntary removal of products, consumers can still purchase unflavored tobacco and mint e-cigarettes.  Whether the sale of these products will be enough to keep the industry afloat is undetermined.  What is certain is that a wave of change is rushing towards the e-cigarette industry which could drown the entire industry.  Compliance with government regulation and consumer claims could cause serious damage to the e-cigarette industry.