Congress can protect youth from vapor products by passing Section 753 of the Ag Appropriations bill
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The members of the Vapor Technology Association (VTA) – small and large vapor businesses throughout the country – are committed to protecting youth from exposure and access to vapor products. Right now, Congress has the opportunity to help protect minors by passing Section 753 of the House Agriculture Appropriations bill. Section 753, which has already passed the House without opposition, would implement the first common-sense restrictions to keep vapor products away from teenagers. We strongly believe in our responsibility to help protect the youngest and most vulnerable of society. Now, it’s time for Congress to act to ensure these products stay out of youth’s hands.

Members of Congress who have railed against our industry – an industry which is literally saving the lives of addicted smokers – and talked about protecting kids, now have the best opportunity to pass legislation this week that would implement tough, new restrictions to further limit the access and exposure that minors have to vapor products. Section 753 would ban print advertising of vapor products in all but adult-only publications to ensure that underage readers aren’t exposed to marketing. Also, Section 753 would ban self-service displays in stores to keep products away from youth that may be present. Moreover, Section 753 would ban the sale of e-cigarettes in vending machines as they can offer easy opportunities for youth to directly access vapor products due to ineffective age verification technologies. Finally, vapor products would be required to carry bold label warnings stating UNDERAGE SALE PROHIBITED and KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN, informing consumers and vendors alike of their age restricted status.

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Moreover, Section 753 would require FDA to implement new standards for flavors and for battery safety. Given all the media hyperbole surrounding e-cigarettes, Congress has no excuse for not passing Section 753 as part of the FY2018 appropriations process.

In spite of our industry’s extensive and substantial efforts to keep our products out of the hands of minors, some well-intentioned detractors claim that the experimentation with e-cigarettes constitutes a major problem among youth today. As they claim, our products have proliferated extensively among today’s youth, and function as a gateway to cigarette smoking. Simply put, these accusations are not grounded in reality.

According to the CDC’s own statistics, since 2015, the usage of e-cigarettes among teenagers has been in decline, and this trend shows no sign of reversing. In addition, the proposed gateway theory does not hold weight. There is no peer-reviewed scientific research that establishes a causal link between vapor product usage and smoking adoption. To be clear, it is both illogical and disingenuous for our detractors to perpetuate irrational fears of increased smoking. After all, despite the plethora of e-cigarette products on the market and all of the “flavors” about which our detractors complain, e-cigarette use is declining amongst youth and, more importantly, the CDC says youth smoking is at the lowest level ever and is falling at the fastest rate ever.

Does that mean we are not concerned? Of course not. We will continue to be vigilant in implementing sound policies that protect youth but also that protect adult consumers desperately trying to quit. To that end, VTA has consistently advocated for public policy to protect youth, and we’ve voluntarily implemented a set of rigorous industry standards for our membership which are designed to limit the exposure minors have to vapor marketing and to further reduce potential opportunities for them to purchase said products. These include mandatory carding policies for consumers who appear to be under 27; some stores have even chosen to restrict store access to of-age consumers.

VTA recognizes the need to shield America’s youth from vapor products. We believe our record of advocacy and internal practices reflect our serious and continuing commitment to protection of the underage from vapor products. However, alarmist claims that vapor products are having a significant and serious impact on teenagers are both misleading and dangerous. We are happy to say that fewer teenagers trying vapor products, and that there is no sign indicating that our products have increased cigarette smoking either; if anything, a case can be made that vapor products are a gateway out of smoking. But, to ensure that we are taking concrete steps today, we look forward to working with supporters, critics and lawmakers alike to pass the common-sense limitations of Section 753 that will ensure that America’s youth are further protected.

Tony Abboud is executive director of the Vapor Technology Association.