The $100 million question: Does Trump hate vaping, or he is simply ill-advised?

The Trump Administration has just released its budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year, and hidden inside the fine print is a request for $100 million in user fees – a clever way of saying vape taxes.  Fees like these have traditionally been attached to Big Tobacco products for decades and are said to be used to help the FDA pay for the policing and federal oversight of its smoking-related regulations.  The same excuse is being used to support the multi-million dollar vape tax.

The release of the Trump budget strangely coincides with other negative news directly affecting the vaping industry.  On March 13, FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb announced his latest proposal to curb teen vaping by aggressively restricting the sales of flavored vapor products through conventional brick-and-mortar retailers.

Related Article:  On his way out the door, departing FDA Chief slaps vaping with harsher regs

With only 30-days for the general public to respond, the proposal could potentially restrict access to flavored vapes to only those establishments that are age-restrictive.  If convenience stores, gas stations, and pharmacies want to continue selling flavored vapor products, then they must store these items in a separate room that is inaccessible to underage consumers.

This double-whammy of anti-vaping aggression occurring within hours of one another begs the question. Does Donald Trump secretly hate vaping?

Gottlieb’s resignation gave vapors brief window of hope

Just last week on March 5, the aggressively anti-vaping FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb resigned his post, and the vapor community was cautiously euphoric.  Perhaps POTUS was angered by Gottlieb’s repeated attempts to over-regulate the vapor industry out of existence?  Perhaps President Trump wanted Gottlieb out so that he could put a more pro-business advocate in his place?

Trump is famously anti-government regulation, having slashed Obama-era regulatory requirements on the coal, gas, water, and other industries with lightning speed and unyielding hostility.  Surely, he would not be opposed to doing the same for vaping.

Related Article:   Revealed: FDA’s Gottlieb tells WH of secret plan to kill flavored vapes

Since his 2016 election, Trump has remained somewhat non-committal on the teen vaping issue.  He’s never really courted the vaping community actively, but he hasn’t openly admonished them either.  But when his budget proposal was released to the public with the attention-grabbing title of A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept, Taxpayers First, Trump’s position – or maybe the position of his staffers – became immediately clear.

Tackles the Epidemic of Youth E-Cigarette Use. The Budget includes a new user fee on e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery system products and proposes new FDA authority to collect user fees in support of its regulatory oversight of new tobacco and nicotine related products in the future as appropriate. The proposal would amend current law to add e-cigarette manufacturers and importers to a list of product categories subject to the user fee. The FDA’s annual user fee cap of $712 million would be increased by $100 million and future collections of all tobacco related products would be indexed to inflation. This proposal would ensure that FDA has the resources to address today’s alarming rise in youth e-cigarette use as well as new public health threats of tomorrow. New tobacco or nicotine products that are regulated by FDA should also pay a user fee, just as other tobacco related products that are subject to FDA’s user fee.”

As with most presidential budget requests, the chances of the White House’s anti-vaping provisions becoming law are far from guaranteed.  The fiscal year for 2020 does not officially begin until October of this year, so there is still a lot of time for discussion and debate.  The Congress ultimately holds the purse strings and must pass the proposal into law, but they are still arguing over wall funding.  Here’s hoping the vaping regulations somehow get lost in the mix.

American Vaping Association reacts to Trump vape taxes

Many within the vaping community are left scratching their heads.  This anti-vaping stance of the White House doesn’t seem to fit with Trump’s political agenda.  Is this his true viewpoint on vaping?  Or is he being secretly manipulated behind the scenes by ill-informed advisors?  Greg Conley of the American Vaping Association (AVA) believes that Trump can still be convinced to change his mind.

“President Trump should fire whoever duped his office into proposing this $100 million tax increase on adult consumers trying to quit smoking. This is nothing more than a virtue tax that will cost jobs and lives. Over 50 percent of the vaping industry is held by small- and medium-sized businesses, meaning that any user fee will inevitably be passed along to consumers in the form of price increases."
“Before even considering an expansion of the FDA’s tobacco regulatory budget, Congress should examine why the FDA believes its current tobacco budget of $712 million is inadequate. In the nearly two-year tenure of outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products has failed to issue substantive guidance documents needed by the vaping industry to comply with upcoming regulatory deadlines. It is hard to believe the FDA’s performance would have been better the past two years if they had an extra $100 million in their budget.”

The primary intention behind the regulations seems to be targeting major vapor companies like Juul, The Altria Group, and British American Tobacco.  But what the Trump Administration seems to be missing is that the entire vaping community will be adversely affected because this $100 million in “user fees” will be passed along directly to the American consumer in the form of higher prices.

Vapers are encouraged to contact the White House directly to express their opposition.  And of course, there’s always Donald Trump’s Twitter.

Related Article:   Breaking: FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb resigns! Vaping rejoices!

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