Uncle Sam, California crack down on e-cigarettes, vaping, smoking

vapingBig Tobacco has gotten a major kick in the pants over one of its insidious means to hook a new generation on harmful habits. The federal government says it will regulate the booming e-cigarette business, banning sales of the products to those younger than 18 who “vape” and requiring photo IDs for e-cigs’ purchase by consumers younger than 26.

After long discussion about the potential harms of increasingly popular e-cigarettes, vaping, pipe smoking, and hookahs, the government has decided to exert its authority over them as it has for decades over cancer-causing cigarettes, starting in 90 days and with hundreds of pages of new rules.

Makers of e-cigarettes also must submit products for federal review before marketing them. They must provide ingredient lists and describe potential health risks. The costs for such reviews are estimated to be roughly $1 million per product, which vaping advocates said would put a major crimp in what has been a booming, largely unregulated business. But Big Tobacco foes said it was past time for health’s sake that vaping had oversight, particularly to protect the young.

Tobacco foes cheered not only the prospective new federal regulation but also actions by lawmakers and the governor in California, one of the nation’s largest commercial markets. They passed a package of anti-tobacco laws, including raising the smoking age from age 18 to 21, curbing the use of e-cigarettes or vaping in public, and expanding no-smoking areas in public schools. Only California and Hawaii have hiked the smoking age to 21. Gov. Jerry Brown balked at allowing local governments to impose tobacco taxes to cover health care costs related to tobacco abuse.

The new California anti-smoking laws had the backing of the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and the California Medical Association. A key lawmaker who supported the anti-smoking bills said they “signal that California presents a united front against Big Tobacco. Together, we stand to disrupt the chain of adolescent addiction.”

The U.S. and California measures infuriated Big Tobacco, which has threatened to launch an initiative drive against the Golden State vaping provisions.

As I have written, vaping has become all too common and health endangering a fad among the young. Although some experts see vaping as a better alternative to cigarette smoking, U.S. health officials fear e-cigarettes act as a gateway to tobacco use, which is proven to damage the heart and lungs, while also still exposing users to highly addictive nicotine and other harmful substances. I’ve written before about the potential woes of toxins in vaping liquids─and questions grow by the day about what’s in them.

Smokers fib for lower insurance rates

It’s great the government is cracking down because e-cig makers, like many of those connected with tobacco products and their use, aren’t exactly forthcoming. Duplicity seems to surround the smoking habit like a cloud, as a Kaiser Health News story notes. The nonprofit health news service has reported that insurers, under the Affordable Care Act, are fuming about smokers’ lying about their habit in hopes of getting cheaper coverage.

Insurers can’t check up on policy holders, who, in many state exchanges, qualify for lower rates if they claim they don’t smoke. But, in comparing data from federal and statewide surveys on tobacco use to smoker rates among their insured, companies say there’s a lot of lying going on. Many states do allow insurers to penalize smokers retroactively if they’re caught. The real negative aspect, of course, to the cigarette butt-heads’ conduct is this: Those who don’t smoke end up paying more for health insurance because  smokers have worse health and need more care.

Big Tobacco dissembles over ‘safer’ cigarettes

Lying, of course, is a signature act by Big Tobacco, so kudos, too, to the Atlantic for catching industry officials─yet again─trying to throw up a smokescreen about their products’ dangers.

Writer David Heath chronicles how, in courts across the country, Big Tobacco is flouting the voluminous, path-breaking federal court ruling that barred the industry from continuing to lie about tobacco’s major health harms. He says that manufacturers keep insisting, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, that there are safer, low-tar cigarettes.

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