The “Vaping Congressman” is at it again.
It looks like House Representative Duncan Hunter, famous for being the first lawmaker to pull out an e-cigarette during a congressional hearing and puff away, is coming to the aid of vapers once again. He’s just announced a new bill that would completely overhaul the FDA’s regulatory system for e-cigarettes and save hundreds of businesses from being shut down.
For months, vapers have looked to the Cole-Bishop Amendment as the last hope for e-cigarettes in the US, and it is, but Hunter’s new legislation would be a long-term solution to keep the industry running even after the Cole-Bishop amendment passed. It’s uncertain how much support Hunter’s new legislation will receive in Congress, but vapers have high hopes that, under Trump’s government, more lenient e-cigarette regulations will have a better chance.
What Hunter’s Legislation Will Do
Hunter’s new bill is a new attempt to block the e-cigarette regulations recently announced by the FDA. The FDA’s rules have been widely criticized for regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products, and imposing a tougher standard on e-cigarettes than it does on traditional combustible cigarettes.
Hunter’s legislation would, more or less, wipe the slate clean, get at the core of the issue, and set up a completely different regulatory structure for e-cigarettes. This is how e-cigarettes should have been regulated from the start: totally separate from tobacco, since there is no logical basis for regulating them the same when there’s no tobacco in them.
Here are some of the highlights from the bill:
- E-liquid producers would have to temporarily abide by the manufacturing standards set by the American E-liquid Manufacturers Standards Association, until the American National Standards Institute created a set of permanent rules.
- Firmly labels e-cigarettes as not tobacco products, and prohibits states and municipalities from labeling e-cigarettes as tobacco products
- Prohibits states and municipalities from enacting laws or regulations that are stricter than the federal regulations
- Requires e-cigarette manufacturers to follow strict standards for battery safety
- Requires the FDA to consider the relative risk and harm reduction potential of different tobacco products, and rank them accordingly
- Requires the FDA to take a stance on harm reduction and recommend harm reduction strategies for people who use tobacco
According to Reuters, “Hunter’s bill would formally incorporate the concept of harm reduction into the FDA’s mission by requiring it to support less-dangerous nicotine delivery products.”
Although the bill, as a whole, is a much more reasonable set of regulations than any other introduced so far, some vapers are concerned that parts of the bill would essentially ban mechanical mods and “unregulated” devices (e-cigarettes with adjustable wattage and voltage). While unregulated e-cigarettes do carry a risk that regulated devices don’t, they are safe with proper knowledge and care.
Banning them would, most likely, simply push vapers to create their own DIY unregulated e-cigarettes, which would be much more risky and potentially more dangerous than the ones legally available now.
Does the bill actually have a chance of passing? Only time will tell, but hopes are higher than ever now that President Trump has promised de-regulation in many areas of government.
The language for Hunter’s bill is already up online for anyone who wants to read the specifics, and he is expected to introduce the bill to Congress this week.
Hunter’s Legislation vs. The Cole-Bishop Amendment
Although Hunter’s bill would be a more permanent solution for e-cigarette regulation, some vapers are worried that it could distract lawmakers from the Cole-Bishop Amendment, which most pro-vaping activists agree should be the primary focus for vaping advocates. That’s because, if the Cole-Bishop Amendment fails, there might not be much of an e-cigarette industry left to regulate by the time Hunter’s bill passed.
The FDA’s approval process for e-cigarettes is so costly that only biggest companies—i.e. Big Tobacco—will be able to comply. The majority of the vapor industry, made up of small, independent businesses, can’t come close to being able to afford the millions of dollars it would take to get FDA approval.
That’s why Cole-Bishop Amendment, also known as the “FDA Deeming Authoriy Clarification Act of 2017, is so important. This amendment would exempt e-cigarettes and vapor products from the FDA’s approval process as long as they were on the market before the FDA finalized the regulations, essentially acting as a stop-gap measure to prevent thousands of vapor businesses from going under.
Lawmakers expect the Cole-Bishop amendment to be included in Trump’s spending bill, which could go to vote as early as this week. That’s why some vapers think Hunter’s timing is a little less than ideal.
The Cole-Bishop Amendment would be a lifesaver for the vapor industry, and it’s necessary to keep it afloat, but it’s only a temporary band-aid for the larger problem. Future e-cigarette innovation and new products would still be hampered by the FDA’s review process, and it doesn’t address the fundamental problem of treating e-cigarettes like tobacco products.
That’s why, even after the Cole-Bishop Amendment passes, it will be important for vaping activists to shift their attention to more thorough and meaningful solutions to unreasonable government restrictions and regulations on e-cigarettes, like, perhaps, Hunter’s e-cigarette bill. It’s high time that US government stops lumping vaping in with smoking and recognizes that e-cigarettes deserve a separate product category and different system of regulations.
The Future Can Be Brighter, With Your Help!
Since the FDA’s rules began taking effect last August, the vapor industry has banded together with politicians, vapers, and activists to push back. In less than eight months, pro-vaping activists have helped to craft two separate pieces of legislation that could put a stop to the FDA’s overreaching regulations.
Although the future seemed grim at first, the community of pro-vaping activists has become bigger, more passionate, and more vocal than ever. If anything can get the attention of law- and policy-makers, it’s this large base of citizen vaping activists who have an abundance of science, sound reasoning, and moving testimonials on their side.
The momentum is picking up, and the time to act is now. If you care about vaping and want to show your support for any of the pro-vaping legislation in Congress right now, consider contacting your representatives and joining forces with other vapers in your area.
To encourage your representatives to support the Tom-Cole Amendment, visit the CASAA (Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association) website. They have links to help you find contact information for your lawmakers and provide a list of talking points you can use to help gain their support.
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