Anti-vaping politicians: who are they, and why do they hate us?

Code Blue, people. We are in the midst of a total panic about vaping, and the result is vape bans across the country.

For people like me, that means I’m between a rock and a hard place. I never want to smoke a traditional cigarette again. I really don’t.

But in case you missed the memo: quitting smoking is hard. It is among the hardest things you might ever try. Your body and brain team up to defeat you every step of the way, and they never stop.

This is why it’s important for our alleged leaders to represent us, too. As people who vape, we need to know which of our elected officials are ready to take away our rights.

In that vein, here is our ultimate list of anti-vaping politicians, updated for the 2019 vape ban crisis. Here’s what you will find:

Okay, let’s go.

Vaping in the US: Medical, Social, and Political Issues

Why do people care about vaping in the United States? In general, there are medical, social, and political issues that make people care, but these issues all bleed into each other.

Let’s break them down, because frequently the politicians who cite these reasons don’t really distinguish between them that well.

Vaping and medical issues

Anti-vaping politicians almost always claim to make decisions for reasons of health and safety. But there’s way more to this than whether or not vaping is safe, generally:

  • Is vaping anything safe?

  • Is vaping e-cigarettes safe for anyone?

  • Is vaping e-cigarettes safer for adults than smoking traditional cigarettes?

  • Is vaping e-cigarettes safe for youths?

  • Is vaping THC safe for anyone?

  • Is vaping THC safer than smoking it?

  • Is vaping THC safe for medical marijuana patients? What about those with respiratory issues?

  • Can vaping cause respiratory issues, ever? When?

  • We already know some vape additives are making people sick; what about this, why is that, and what is the definitive list?

  • What are the long-term effects of vaping various substances?

Good news: we know the answer to some of these questions right now.

  • Vaping e-cigarettes is safer than smoking, according to almost all available research.

  • The scientific consensus right now is that no smoking—not of traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes—is safe for youths, so that’s easy.

Therefore, no one, including anti-vaping politicians, should be arguing about those things. An age of 18 should be agreeable to everyone, and we need to stop arguing against the research on smoking cessation and allow smokers to vape instead and focus on keeping them safe.

This means that only these outstanding medical issues should be driving any regulators. (In reality, people will still argue about those other things—but when they do, they are marking themselves as unreasonable. Do not give them your vote.)

Remaining vaping issues

Vapor against a colorful red and blue background
There are a few simple vaping issues in the US that remain Photo by Ruvim Noga on Unsplash

For the remaining elected officials who will listen to reason, this leaves as potentially arguable issues:

  • Is vaping THC safe for anyone?

  • Is vaping THC safer than smoking it?

  • Is vaping THC safe for medical marijuana patients? What about those with respiratory issues?

  • Can vaping cause respiratory issues, ever? When?

  • We already know some vape additives are making people sick; what about this, why is that, and what is the definitive list?

  • What are the long-term effects of vaping various substances?

Why do we bring this up?

Because people who will fund research on the issues instead of voting against vaping as a kneejerk reaction are going to get our endorsement, for one. And because any elected official should value an evidence-based approach.

The ABCs of How and Why Politicians Vote

Below we will discuss not just how someone votes, but why. This is because if they will listen to evidence, fund research, and go with what voters want, they are not always the worst choice.

For example:

You’re choosing between Candidates A, B, C, D, and E.

A maybe thinks all smoking and vaping is evil, and will always vote against them for religious reasons. Or, they just have their own reasons and will vote to take away the right.

B maybe thinks marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and has voted against vaping before. Or B is really concerned about health and safety generally. But B also has a decent pro-science record and changes their mind with the voters.

C has voted both for and against lots of different issues, and has no real record on vaping. They seem to vote the way industry interests blow them. Right now, they say they will vote to protect vaping, but they feel unreliable—because they are! They flip flop sometimes with money votes.

D is pro-legalization—and mostly won’t permanently ban vaping, if only because it’s totally illogical and their voters would never have it.

E is not really pro-legalization or vaping, but they are a serious, committed libertarian—enough so that they have an established record of not banning things they consider personal activities such as vaping.

And then…there’s everyone else. But let’s deal with these folks first.

Voting for vaping

A hand in shadow drops a ballot into a voting box
If you vape, you should vote this time–but how? Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Obviously, D is your best pro-vaping vote. But if you can’t have D, who do you choose? E is probably safe. C is easier than B at the moment, but B is also someone to work on, if that makes sense.

Don’t waste time on A unless you need to.

And then, take the time to figure out which of the rest of the pack is most likely to follow the science and the law—because technically, the law is still on our side.

Part of the problem is that we have become stuck in a two-party system that is semi-functional at best. How it has played out has meant that Democrats, for example, are more likely to vote along party lines both to legalize marijuana and to regulate or even ban vaping.

This places most people like me in a tough spot.

I know that, ultimately, the GOP as a monolithic party is not going to help me. They may leave vaping alone for now, but if they do, it’s not because of a deep commitment to my freedom. It’s more about money, and I need to avoid the rest of the party’s tendencies, especially on marijuana.

I also know I might have a better shot at convincing some pearl-clutching regulators among Democrats to just regulate dangerous vaping additives instead of all vapes. Some among them are also more likely to legalize all cannabis, fund research, and keep the whole prospect safer.

The Trump effect?

And what about the “Trump effect”? Is that real, and will it impact a vape ban vote?

Would a politician who might normally not ban something ban it if Trump wanted to—or because he didn’t, depending on their position? I do think that’s possible. It’s not easy to withstand a Presidential Tweetstorm, especially if you are vulnerable at election time. This is true no matter who you are, I think.

For politicians who care less about the issue, it may not be worth crossing party lines or defying the President, if that becomes an issue. For now, that may help vapers—but maybe not always.

So if you’re wondering why we’re not just saying vote with a party or stick to a single issue, this is why. It’s complicated!

Now, let’s get into the weeds.

Vaping: social and political issues

a group of people vapes together socially
Vaping and social issues–and why politicians need to listen to vapers who vote. Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

The rest of what people, including anti-vaping politicians, argue about in terms of vaping are social and political issues across the spectrum:

  • Does seeing people vape “glamorize” it?

  • Does naming a vape “Captain Crunch” or “Bubble Gum” prove that it is marketed to children? Can such a product be viable for adults, and if not, why is flavored vodka, for example, allowed? (And let’s hope none of these people get to into cannabis strains and come for my Yoda OG.)

  • Do kids who vape become addicts more readily? If they do, is that a legal issue?

  • Do social pressures really cause children to vape? If they do, is that a matter for lawmakers?

  • Does funding research into vaping, e-cigarettes, and/or medical marijuana promote vaping?

  • Does a ban on vaping enable more black market activity?

  • What are the practical effects of lack of access to vaping products for people who may be addicted?

  • Why should peoples’ freedom to vape be curtailed?

  • How does the public interest outweigh liberty here?

  • Doesn’t the US Constitution protect this right unless it clearly cuts against a compelling competing interest?

Et cetera. One thing we are looking for here as we rate politicians is this. Do they vote against vaping and cite a social or political issue instead of evidence? If so, we will nail them as an anti-vaping politician.

(If they cite a social or political issue to defend a right, that’s different. Taking rights away demands evidence, not just an idea. Defending a right with an idea is fair game.)

Anti-vaping Politicians: 2019

Right now, because there is a new “crisis” in play, politicians are evolving their views on vaping. In other words, this crisis and, in many cases, the latest research and voting trends, are influencing their views.

Therefore, here is what they are saying and doing most recently and why. How they are voting is probably not tested yet.

Already know which politician you’re looking for? Jump to them using the list here (and remember, anyone not here is coming):

Alabama

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Washington

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District of Columbia

a woman holds a sign that says, "ERROR 155: Democracy not found"
Find out which anti-vaping politicians are in your life here. Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

A: True anti-vaping politicians

What about the pearl-clutching reactionaries, who don’t even bother to cite facts or evidence? Here’s one for you (and remember, click on their names to contact them):

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA)

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who is up for reelection next year, gives Politico a generic “save the children” reason for his support of a vape ban—or at least he did when Trump was supporting one:

“Look, I don’t like Big Brother getting involved with our lives, but we’ve got to protect our children.. . .The president is well within his right to try to get to the bottom of this thing.”

One way to tell the difference between a pearl-clutching politician and someone who really wants to protect people is this. Is the same politician voting in favor of harm reduction measures? Access to smoking cessation measures for more people? Mental health treatment for everyone?

If they’re not, they’re also not that interested in protecting children. They are interested in taking your rights for no reason—or for their own reasons, which aren’t yours. Pretty simple.

Here’s a list of people who have no problem banning vaping, apparently:

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), former wrestling coach and current anti-suit jacket activist, apparently, sees the irony in everyone’s position but his own:

“I think it’s ironic that some who are completely against the vaping products are also the very same people who are pro-marijuana.”

(Jordan supports keeping cannabis illegal but will not ban vaping, so…yeah.) Still, he cites no reason other than, we’re doing it, so there.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) has said he will help advance the banking bill—even though he is against marijuana in all forms.

However, he recently made himself a liar, announcing his opposition to the banking bill. This is why he has recently been moved onto the anti list.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has urged the FDA to completely ban e-cigarettes from the market. “For me, vaping is the canary in the coal mine—or better yet, the child in the vaping room,” he said in November 2019.

His base reasons are related to the health and safety of children, but this is a non-starter. He says, “I understand these deaths may be from adulterated products, but you can’t decouple this from the fact that flavors are what’s luring kids in. This is a really critical issue.”

He is using that reason to support a total ban from the market, and those are two different things. Verdict: category A.

(Romney generally cares about the health of children, by the way. For example, he also wants to ban all smoking everywhere. He did in Massachusetts as governor and he would again, nationally, if possible. He just cares about the issue more than you or your rights.)

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Mitt Romney is joined in his anti-vaping bill advocacy by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). And while the two may be at it for slightly different reasons, the result is bad in both cases.

“Vaping companies have hooked millions of our children on nicotine using e-cigarette flavors like ‘gummy bear,’ ‘scooby snacks,’ and ‘strawberries and cream.’ This means massive health consequences for the next generation,” Merkley stated, cited here by his pal Sen. Murkowski (R-AK), although her position is unclear. “Refillable cartridges are an invitation to hazardous concoctions, and we need to get them off the market too.”

In other words, Merkley is all about flavors and kids, even though that’s not at all the whole issue. Hit him where it hurts him: he is a longtime supporter of legalization, and this position on vaping ultimately makes no sense for him.

Merkley may be more willing to move based on evidence. Each time he discusses the bill, he cites a lack of medical research into health effects and that sort of problem—and that’s his real issue.

Now is the time to push people like Merkley each time new research that supports vaping emerges. It is also the time to push them to actually fund that research if they believe it is lacking.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is a committed anti-vaping advocate. From a press release on her website:

“Senator Shaheen has prioritized efforts in the Senate to tackle the youth vaping crisis. Over the past year, she has repeatedly pressed the Trump administration to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market and stop delaying action in implementing the planned restrictions on flavored products. Shaheen has led legislation – the E-Cigarette Youth Protection Act – which would require e-cigarette companies to pay fees to the FDA to help fund federal prevention efforts and ensure that the agency has the resources needed to conduct enforcement actions against e-cigarette manufacturers. She’s also held multiple meetings with students, educators, law enforcement and health officials across the state about the ongoing public health concern. In September, Shaheen introduced the No Tax Subsidies for E-Cigarette and Tobacco Ads Act, which would close a tax loophole that allows manufacturers to claim federal tax deductions for the cost of advertising e-cigarettes and tobacco products. She also helped introduce the E-Cigarette Device Standards Act of 2019, which would set safety standards in the design of e-cigarette and vaping devices to prevent the use of e-cigarettes to vape Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—a combination that has been linked to the vast majority of vaping illnesses.”

However, New Hampshire is well-known as a civil liberties state. It is also a medical marijuana state, and has decriminalized cannabis generally. Talking points:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Along with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Sen. Richard Blumenthal introduced the Preventing Opportunities for Teen E-Cigarette and Tobacco Addiction (PROTECT) Act in April 2019 essentially ban flavors. Blumenthal cites “the alarming rise in e-cigarette use among youth” as his reason for pushing the vape ban.

He has also recently signed on to the rebuke of the Trump Administration’s failure to follow through with the vape ban.

His constituents have decriminalized cannabis and legalized medical marijuana. They tend to vote for medical research and support civil rights. Talking points:

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pretty vocally against flavors and supports a ban. New York recently extended its flavor ban another 90 days.

He has also recently signed on to the rebuke of the Trump Administration’s failure to follow through with the vape ban.

I met him once around 20 years ago. Back then, he did actually listen to reason. His constituents have decriminalized cannabis and legalized medical marijuana. They tend to vote for medical research and support civil rights. Talking points:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Speaking of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), call her an other, for now. She clearly cites the difference between the THC additive issue and the e-cigarettes/teens issue, for example. She wants to sternly warn youth that nicotine is addictive and harmful.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MI)

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MI) recently questioned Stephen Hahn, MD, the Trump administration’s nominee for FDA head. She called him out, asking, “There’s an open question here … of whether you will commit to the administration’s proposal to clear the market of flavored cigarettes.”

What her ultimate position is, we don’t know. But she’s the co-chair of the bipartisan Rural Health Caucus and is supposedly committed to healthcare access.

The Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic

close up view of pearls on white fabric
Grab your pearls: it’s time to clutch them with some anti-vaping politicians. Photo by Cosiela B. on Unsplash

More Type A politicians to avoid voting for, vote against, and…whatever, include many, but not all, of the members of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic. What is irritating about this is that as an adult vaper and voter, I want no part of youths vaping.

Never mind what I want, though. These politicians also appear to be clear As who at least want to ban all flavors—at least for now:

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)

Co-chair Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) sees vaping as a “public health epidemic” and has said, “Vaping devices and e-cigarettes prey on teens and introduce them to smoking.”

Co-chair Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has commented, “This is a national epidemic, a national health crisis,” and has backed the ban. However, see my comments on him below.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Co-chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is a save the children guy. See the link for details, if you want to.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) said to reporters (not this one, who literally owns several cannabis strains including “Gummy Bear” that she should get to know): “There is no legitimate reason for any company to sell products with monikers like ‘gummy bear,’ ‘cotton candy’ and ‘tutti frutti.’ That is only going to appeal to children.”

Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN)

Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) really hates vaping: “Every day we see new reports of our kids becoming addicted, getting sick and even dying from vaping,” said Rep. Craig. “That is absolutely unacceptable. As a mother and as a Member of Congress, it is my responsibility to fight for policies that keep Minnesota families healthy and to hold the industries responsible for this epidemic accountable. I’m proud to see this critical bill take a step forward in Congress and look forward to continuing the fight to end youth vaping in our communities.”

Rep. Josh Gotteheimer (D-NJ)

Rep. Josh Gotteheimer (D-NJ) has literally “announced war” on underage vaping, something that is already illegal, by making something else illegal, and he is pretty extreme. From his website:

“Gottheimer’s battle plan includes:

1) Introducing bipartisan legislation to prohibit online sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;

2) Banning e-cigarette flavors nationwide;

3) Working with the FDA to require new e-cigarettes include one-way communication technology to ‘jam’ e-cigs from use on school grounds, and, in the meantime, requiring e-cigarette vapor sensors in all schools;

4) Raising the minimum tobacco purchase age to 21;

5) Banning all non-tobacco e-cigarette products, flavored vaping liquids, and counterfeit e-cigarettes throughout New Jersey; and

6) Beginning a full CDC investigation into the recent vaping lung illnesses and the broader impact of vaping on youth.

Plain and simple: we need a war on youth vaping. Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive battle plan, including six concrete steps, to help fight that war on underage vaping – and help put an end to the youth epidemic. We need to do everything we can to turn the tide, help our children stay healthy, and ensure they’re able to live long, happy, healthy lives. As a parent, that’s truly the goal here. Our schools need to be preparing our kids for the future, not preparing them for hospital visits, or worse.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY)

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) isn’t just concerned about vaping. He’s terrified, apparently: “I’m terrified by the number of teenagers who are becoming addicted to nicotine because they vape,” Rep. Suozzi said. “Increasing the cost of vaping will have a direct correlation to decreasing the usage of vaping products.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) “knows” that flavors hurt kids and bans help: “When we know something harms children, hurts children, we have a moral responsibility to protect them.”

Well, we don’t know, sorry. So:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is most definitely not a fan of vaping and has been called out for calling certain big e-cigarette industry players “bastards.” (But the rabid attacks on her by some vapers…aren’t helping, let’s just say. For example, she never said all vapers were bastards, or many of the more extreme versions of the original quote I’ve seen online. Just one vaper’s opinion.)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has said regarding the “vape crisis”: “We cannot stand by idly by while people are falling ill or dying,” said DeLauro. “We must do better.” And, “It’s unconscionable to think of what they would allow for an industry to make a profit.”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) sees vaping itself as a public health emergency, and has characterized FDA delays in at least temporarily removing e-cigarettes from the market a “big, big whopping mistake.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told Politico: “I would like to see these e-cigarettes absolutely banned, but part of the problem is, we know so little about what’s actually in it.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) has this to say about vaping: “E-cigarettes have made their way into schools across the country and have quickly become an epidemic among youth. E-cigarettes need to be taken as seriously as combustible cigarettes. . .”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) has commended the CDC for condemning flavors: “These are dangerous tobacco products, and it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that they do not fall into the hands of children.”

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL)

Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) is a fairly strong anti-vaping advocate. She is sponsoring some of the toughest anti-flavor legislation.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY)

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), has co-sponsored the legislation with Shalala, saying: “The reason I think we have to have federal legislation is that states can have tough legislation, good legislation, but then we can run into the issue of smuggling if it’s not at the national level. We can have national standards, national prohibition even on it that will make it much harder for these to be circulated among young people.”

King also proposed that the annual funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than double from $210 million to $500 million, which seems reasonable—and unrelated or even contra to a vape ban. King also wants to tax e-cigarette products at about a $3 per pack rate.

Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL)

Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) is known as an “outspoken critic” of vaping: “Across the country, vaping is gaining popularity, and it’s leading to a concerning rate of hospitalizations and deaths. This is a serious public health crisis,” she Tweets.

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH)

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) supports the ban pretty clearly: “It is our responsibility to address the public health crisis caused by the irresponsible youth marketing and design of e-cigarettes and vaping products. Across the nation, hundreds of young people have fallen ill, and tragically, some have died, due to e-cigarette use.. . .We must protect our nation’s young people and hold e-cigarette companies accountable for the dangerous effects of their products.. . .I will continue to work with my colleagues to address this public health issue.”

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA)

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) has also introduced anti-vaping legislation, and stated: “For nearly a decade, the FDA has allowed e-cigarettes to go largely unregulated, setting the stage for today’s epidemic of e-cigarette use. While escaping regulation, the industry profited off the backs of those teens to the tune of $7 billion in annual sales. With more than 1,300 people having gotten sick with vaping-related lung injuries this year, we owe it to our children to hold these companies accountable and stop the sale of these devices until the FDA can certify that they are safe.” [This is a relatively tame position; take the stupid gimme line about the kids out and it’s not all that unreasonable—except that a ban is the exact wrong response.]

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA)

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) wants to ban most ads for vaping products, because she sees a direct, causal relationship between the ads and youth vaping: “Congress banned cigarette ads on TV and radio beginning in 1971; however, due to a loophole, e-cigarette and vaping ads have been rapidly popping up on America’s screens, leading to a rise in vaping—especially among America’s youth.”

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA)

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) is also an emergency room doctor. He has testified in Congress about the dangers of vaping: “As a physician, I have seen firsthand the health decline in individuals who tried tobacco as teenagers, got addicted, and never quit. We must do everything in our power to decrease underage teens’ access to harmful nicotine products, which is why I am working on legislation to deter retailers from selling to minors.”

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL)

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) is the chairwoman of the DCCC. For this reason alone she is unlikely to buck the party line, if the party line is a ban—but that also means she is unlikely to push a ban if the group sees reason. In short, I think her leadership position will prevent her from taking a principled stand either way. For now, she stays an A. Still:

These next guys are still As, but they are less clear. Here are some possible pressure points, general and specific:

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) is a coalition member, *but she has no quotes on vaping I can find. Nothing relevant is on her issues list, including the healthcare section.

She’s also in a traditionally Republican state, so her election is bound to be hot. Alabama is also a pretty strong vaping and smoking state. For example, Breathe Easier Alliance of Alabama is on fire. I think she’s a soft target and could move with simple voter pressure. Who knows.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) is a coalition member, *but he has no quotes on vaping I can find. His real issues appear to be veterans’ concerns, healthcare costs, and things like red tide and other local environmental problems. If he really cares about healthcare costs, he shouldn’t ban vaping, so if you’re in his area, hit him with the healthcare costs of smoking, over and over again.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) is a coalition member, *but she has no quotes on vaping I can find. Her issues don’t reflect a stance at the time of this writing. Arizona is a longtime medical marijuana state with many, many vapers—she may also be a soft target for simple voter pressure. In particular, I would insert some language about her alleged commitment to healthcare for all: “As a mother whose daughter experienced complications with the birth of her son, Ann knows how devastating it can be for a family with an unexpected medical problem. The anxiety of managing serious threats to a loved one’s health is only compounded by the bills that come along with them.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)

Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) is a coalition member, *but she has no quotes on vaping I can find. Known in DC as “the period lady” for advocating for access to tampons and things like that, she is also into voting rights and cultural competency issues and human rights.

Hit her from an equity perspective: this hurts vapers’ health unfairly and it’s fueled by the privileged panic of wealthy white people over their children. If homeless people everywhere should have access to tampons—and they should!—why shouldn’t they also be able to live longer and not die from smoking-related illnesses? Why shouldn’t all of us?

Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA)

Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA) is another MD. When she was elected in 2018 she made it clear that it was a broader healthcare and progress platform that was driving her: “The trick here really is to pursue policies that work for everybody in the district.. . .If medicine is too expensive, you want somebody who’s going to go stand up to big pharma and bring costs down. And if you’re having trouble making ends meet and housing is too expensive, you want someone who’s going to go to bat for livable wages.”

She Tweets about SNAP, access to healthcare, wildfires, recycling, the VA, how to safely cook turkeys…lots of stuff, but no vaping. She will also endorse Republicans locally. I think she will listen to voters.

Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT)

Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT) is a coalition member. However, he has no quotes on vaping I can find, and he has also said that cannabis businesses should have better access to banks. He’s not what you’d call a legalization guy yet—but if you’re already in his area, might as well push him on his inconsistent logic. Plus, he backs things like research into solar energy; in other words, he does appear to believe that science and technology are real, and evidence matters.

Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ)

Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) is a coalition member. However, he has no quotes on vaping I can find. I cannot find related healthcare issues that he seems to care about. He does appear to believe generally that science and technology are real.

Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA)

Rep. Harley Rouda (C-CA) is an anomaly because he is the first Democrat to represent the rich white people of Orange County in a really long time. For this reason, and as a former longtime conservative legislator, he is probably on the fence on a lot of issues. You know what that means. Apply reasonable, logical, evidence-based pressure.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) approaches this from the ongoing menthol debate, and for best results, before you approach her, try to understand that issue. Specific talking points:

Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ)

Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) hasn’t made much noise about vaping, but he is under fire generally. He is in a conservative area as a Democrat, and is facing heat next year. He is one of only two Democrats who voted against impeachment, and probably not for strong personal reasons.

He is going to do what voters local to him pressure him to do. Are you in New Jersey? Tell him you vape and vote if you are.

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ)

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) is apparently on this coalition although I can’t find any quotes on vaping by him or even any related issues he cares about. Push him hard as a voter.

Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL)

Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL), like Malinowski, is apparently on this coalition although I can’t find any quotes on vaping by him or even any related issues he cares about. Push him hard as a voter.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) is backing this bill, but perhaps is not a strong target. (He is fighting pancreatic cancer and an ethics probe. He is unlikely to fight whatever the party line ends up being, or take any strong positions.)

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI)

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) is very new to Congress, and it’s not clear how strong she is on this.

Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA)

Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA), like Stevens, is very new to Congress, having been there less than a year. There are no real quotes I can find on vaping from him, and it’s not clear how strong he is on this.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ)

Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) has been in Congress for less than a year, and he is in an area that is usually Republican, meaning he will be under voter pressure either way. Good. There are no real quotes I can find on vaping from him, and it’s not clear how strong he is on this.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) is a former public health attorney, basically approaches this from a pro-regulation standpoint, and is apparently on this coalition although I can’t find any quotes on vaping by him. His office has, according to Reddit, sent generic responses to concerned vaper voters, which seem to indicate that he doesn’t really have all the facts, or understand them if he does.

Push him hard as a voter. Hit him with the pro-regulation talking points and the science.

Rep. Cooper (D-TN)

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) self-identifies as a “blue-dog Democrat,” meaning he is conservative among Democrats. He is apparently on this coalition although I can’t find any quotes on vaping by him or even any related issues he cares about. Push him hard as a voter.

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA)

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA)

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA) has called the current vaping situation a “catastrophic regulatory failure.” He is also about to challenge Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) for his job there in Massachusetts. This is messy, because they are both basically progressive.

Pressure both of them the same way: with each other. Explain why it is more progressive not to ban vaping, and then point out that you are going with the person who will support you as a voter.

Others in the House are on the coalition and 34 of these Congresspeople led by Donna Shalala (D-FL) are discussing a vaping bill which would ban flavors, raise the buying age to 21 nationwide, and restrict advertising. Only one co-sponsor on the bill, Pete King (NY), is a Republican, but now that the “crisis” is in full swing, it will probably gain Republican sponsors.

Many of these backers could ultimately be B or C politicians under pressure and should receive specific talking points.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) appears to be among a group who is hoping to regulate e-cigarette companies more than consumers, and hold them accountable for safety violations and/or bad advertising practices. These politicians are making connections between Big Tobacco’s tactics in 1990s and companies like JUUL today.

This means we can demand they tailor anything they sponsor to do just that, and nothing more. (See talking points.) Let’s turn them into advocates for research and harm reduction—and opponents of outright bans—at a minimum.

I place these people on this list, and here’s why:

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-WI)

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) as stated. Place Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii in this category, too.

Also, both appear to be buying into an alarmist, anti-science bias when it comes to smoking in particular, and this is what is informing at least Tlaib’s stance on vaping. It makes even less sense in the context of basically every other position she takes.

This is good news, though, because she can be held accountable. She does seem to respond to logic and reason—mostly, anyway.

Add Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to this list. He doesn’t seem to be buying into as much hype, so I haven’t brought him up until now. But he does seem to be walking the line.

He signed the November letter about the Trump Administration backing down on a vape ban. On the other hand, he seems to dialogue with vapers and support things like raising the buying age to 21, or adding warnings to packaging based on actual studies, which is a reasonable step if it happens that way.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has lots of issues he cares about. His attack on e-cigarettes seems to be like the rest of these guys’ approach. He didn’t back a ban until there was a death in his state. He is still far more focused on taxes and other regulations than on outright bans. For him, it’s more about regulating companies and balancing the facts, so hit him with them.

Based on what he spends his time on he’s far more concerned about other issues, so poke him with this. Point out how inconsistent it is in a recreational state to have bans like this, and argue that it’s far more dangerous to ban them. Chances are great that he kind of already knows. That’s why he has helped his state go recreational.

Talking points for politicians like them:

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL): His issues are really banning assault weapons and carbon taxes (his district is going to be underwater quickly). In short: he cares about science. Hit him with it repeatedly.

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY): He cares a lot about harm reduction and has led legislation in this area. Hit him with research on e-cigarettes and smoking cessation, and on the ways that vaping is safer for heart health. Tell him we want more research and education funding, not bans. He knows that works, and he won’t dare argue otherwise, it tanks everything else he does.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has taken some strong positions on e-cigarettes. Specifically, she signed onto the November letter criticizing the Trump Administration. However, this is not her big issue.

Hassan is far more worried about the opiate crisis and harm reduction, and about more people having access to healthcare. She voted against the recently confirmed FDA commissioner nominee for these reasons, not just related to the vape ban. She can be pressured with the right talking points, especially by New Hampshire voters who prize civil liberties and strong public health science. Talking points:

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL): This person cares deeply about many issues—not just for youth, but for all ages. Harm reduction is included on this list, as is access to healthcare and things like that. Make this about accessing a safer option and smoking cessation for him, and about regulating corporations, not people.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD): His issues are health and safety, led by the environment. He is proud of a 100 percent record on green issues from a watchdog, and takes strong stands on issues like guns, so he may not be afraid to back down—with evidence-based arguments and good reasoning. He is a good target for talking points, like these others.

Rep. John Larson (D-CT)

Rep. John Larson (D-CT): He is on this stupid caucus and he doesn’t belong there. Here is what he thinks: “We are facing a public health crisis in this country that has escalated quickly with life-threatening consequences.. . .Connecticut is leading the way to address this crisis by passing a law that does not allow those under 21 to purchase e-cigarettes and also increases enforcement.” 18 is better, but this isn’t a total non-starter position.

And, “According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2018, 3.6 million youth were using e-cigarettes. They have been misled by the vaping industry who has told them it is safe. Studies show that youth who vape are more likely to smoke. The Ways and Means Committee is taking critical steps to address this crisis by passing bipartisan legislation which will impose taxes on highly addictive e-cigarettes and removes barriers to inhalers for those with chronic conditions.”

The JUUL lawsuit, for example, will decide whether e-cigarette companies have screwed up with teens. Let them. Adult vapers don’t even need to deal with that—it’s not related. Don’t allow legislators to muddy our waters. There is no need to ban adult use in the meantime, so keep hammering that point.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is Science, Space, and Technology Chairwoman and the first registered nurse in Congress. I cannot find any direct quotes from her on vaping, and she cares a lot about a range of public health issues, including smoking cessation and equal access to care.

I think that harm reduction evidence, research on medical cannabis use, sensible regulation to protect actual youths, and repeating the facts about how things like bans and criminalization have disparate impacts could convince her. She’s also in a state less friendly to this kind of ban.

In particular, given her Chair position, she needs to listen to evidence, and she knows it. Hammer her with study after study after study. It’s literally her job to read them and turn them into laws.

Talking points for pro-regulation/pro-people legislators who are backing vape bans and part of the Caucus:

Ask these people why they are part of the Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic. Tell them you know they must realize that it is ignoring the real science out there, which supports the need for research funding and harm reduction. Urge them to oppose all total bans and back science and harm reduction approaches, not to mention total legalization, while they are at it.

Show them the vast difference in vaping safety in the EU compared to how it is here. That is, in fact, a regulatory failure—their fault!—not an inherent evil folded into vaping. Mostly, they know it. Remind them, and educate those who don’t get it yet.

Remind them the part they already know: it’s not just about rights, although that’s important. Our lives are depending on it, too, and they are among the few legislators who seem to care about that. Remind them of that, and that we vote, too.

Show them that they can take a stand and still get sensible, evidence-based votes. This can and should be their jam.

Insert bits about their actual issues here, from where I pasted them above, if you want to.

B: Gateway drug/Pro-regulation politicians

close up of man inhaling
Don’t inhale: it’s time for the gateway drug and pro-regulation politicians. Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on Unsplash

Remember, from our hypothetical above, B might think marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and may have voted against legalization and/or vaping before.

But B also has a strong pro-science record and changes their mind with the voters. B, in short, is not a lost cause. Here is an example.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has requested a hearing on the safety of vaping. That hearing will take place in the Senate in 2020. She said this about the issue: “We need to know more about what is making people sick and do more to prevent young people from using vaping products. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about the causes of this outbreak and what more we can do to protect people from getting sick, or worse.”

However, Baldwin also advocates for veterans and many others who would be negatively affected by a total vape ban. She also supports scientific research and other evidence-based practices. I believe that she will support a fair hearing and whatever results come of it. Talking points:

Other politicians might want to regulate e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes—and research them—in exactly the same ways. That is the position of Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR). Politico reports that as of September Wyden proposed tax e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes at the same rate “to remove the ‘on-ramp’ for kids.”

Rep. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Also, Rep. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who I also really normally place in category E since he’s not a regulations guy, has also argued against a ban for public health reasons: “You may incentivize people to stop vaping and go back to cigarettes, which would be, according to the Royal Academy of Physicians, far more harmful.”

Therefore, even if it’s not a free market argument, I would consider a public health argument not a lost cause for this politician and anyone like him.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), is not always a regulations guy, and also seems to be arguing for a ban for public health reasons. He is not a Big Tobacco fan, either. Therefore, even if it’s not a free market argument, I would consider a public health argument a good one for this politician and anyone like him, especially in a medical or recreational state.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) hasn’t said much about vaping other than signing on to the November letter criticizing the Trump Administration and generally backing some sort of action. He’s in a recreational state, though, and is generally subject to all kinds of pressure:

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is after regulations that mimic tobacco stuff, but she is also representing a serious recreational cannabis constituency. “Because of the ever-increasing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that has been fueled by flavors that include mint and menthol, we implore the Administration to finalize a compliance policy removing all unauthorized, non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market immediately,” wrote Senator Murray in October of 2019. “It must not bow to industry or political pressure at the expense of the public health.”

Well, I think she needs to hear from her voters.

Some of these other people also need legalization talking points:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is facing a difficult reelection. Colorado is a battleground purple state, and home to a serious powerhouse of a cannabis industry. Voters want the industry and so does the economy. People want to be safe. The parties want what they want.

He is just trying not to piss everyone off, basically. Ultimately, I think this means he comes down against the vape ban in Colorado. Make sure you know how pissed off you will be in Colorado if he gets it wrong.

Gardner also understands that legalization is at the heart of this issue. He commented to Politico: “We can’t continue to keep our heads in the sand on the federal level while this is happening at the state level.” This is a subtle way of saying: The feds are causing this problem by keeping cannabis a Schedule I drug, which is causing the states problems.

And some sponsors of this bill you will just find below under the legalization section, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Both Maryland Senators (Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Ben Cardin) have signed the recent letter rebuking the Trump Administration for not acting fast enough to ban vaping. Yet neither has taken much of a vocal position otherwise that I can find, and both are in a medical and decriminalized state.

Talking points:

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is clearly anti-vaping, yet he is in a longtime medical state which has mostly decriminalized cannabis. Here he is in September pushing the ban:

“There are profound health risks from smoking e-cigarettes.  For too long these addictive, often candy-flavored nicotine products have been targeted and marketed to children and they are literally poisoning America’s youth.  I urge the Trump Administration to crackdown on e-cigs and help educate the public about the serious health risks they pose.”

C: Show me the money politicians

A person holds a handful of $100 bills, on fire
Show me the money politicians are easy, and common. Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Assume anyone who isn’t otherwise listed here is this kind, because politics is all about money.

First of all, from a vape ban perspective, this isn’t all bad. We are a voting bloc and we have money.

Second, we are business owners. We represent small businesses. And e-cigarette and vape product companies are also businesses. So on the whole, the C group is probably on the side of the vaper.

In other words: these people are probably your reluctant vaping allies if you pressure them, at least for now.

Here are some generic C talking points:

D: Legalize it politicians

Pro-legalization politicians have quickly seized on the “vaping crisis,” pointing out the obvious. If cannabis was not a Schedule I drug and was already being regulated, we’d already know what was in THC vapes—and it wouldn’t be vitamin E.

Similarly, we’d already have a well-funded, robust body of medical research into cannabis and health.

While the e-cigarette issue is not the same, these politicians appear to value evidence-based legislation across the board, so it’s a good approach for them on e-cigarettes, too.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is a longtime cannabis legalization advocate. He commented to Politico about the vaping crisis: “This is all an argument for why we need to legalize and regulate. We need to have standards. We need to make sure people know what’s going on.”

Here are some legalization people, yet three have signed onto a pretty strong anti-vaping position as of November 2019. I will note which appear to be inconsistent:

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)

Contact Ruben Gallego

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)

Sen. Harris signed the November letter, which states: “The nation is in the midst of a public health crisis, with millions of children facing potential addiction to tobacco products and people across the country at risk of deadly illness. Yet, according to press reports, you plan to take no meaningful action to address the youth vaping epidemic and vaping-related injuries. Further, your Administration has reportedly backed away from plans to implement a policy to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes.”

Contact Kamala Harris

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)

Contact Jared Huffman

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

Contact Ted Lieu

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)

Contact Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)

Contact Alan Lowenthal

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

Contact Eric Swalwell

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CA)

Contact Ed Perlmutter

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Contact Jan Schakowsky

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Sen. Warren also signed the November anti-tobacco vaping letter.

Contact Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Klobuchar also signed the November anti-tobacco vaping letter.

Contact Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Contact Cory Booker

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

Contact Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Contact Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)

Contact Don Beyer

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Contact Bernie Sanders

Sanders has made his position pretty clear many times. For example:

“No more cash bail. No more death penalty. No more ‘war on drugs.’ No more mandatory minimums. No more private prisons and detention centers. We are going to fundamentally reform our broken and racist criminal justice system.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)

Contact Mark Pocan

And some basic legalization talking points:

And here are some legalization people who are on the bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic:

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) is a fiery advocate for legalization and points out that cannabis prohibition makes it harder to respond to the crisis now.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) sees legalization as a social justice issue and it really matters to her, it’s personal.

She tweets:

“Decriminalization of marijuana does not go far enough because people—mostly communities of color—will still be disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession. We must provide restorative justice to those communities affected by the failed #WarOnDrugs.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)

Rep. Chellie Pingree is on this committee, yet Maine is now a recreational state.

Contact Chellie Pingree

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is a longtime legalization advocate, having taken even the famous Robert Mueller to task on the issue.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) is on this coalition and is now running for Senate. He is trying to take the seat currently held by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) who is retiring.

Lujan cosponsored the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, HR 3884, with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The MORE Act would end marijuana prohibition and creates a pathway for states to make reforms and legislate on their own. It would also remove Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act.

Talking points for legalization people who are backing vape bans:

Ask these people why the _____ they are part of the Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic. Tell them you know they must realize that it is ignoring the real science out there, which cuts against everything they and/or their constituents have fought for on the legalization and harm reduction fronts. Urge them to oppose all total bans and back science and harm reduction approaches, not to mention total legalization.

Remind them the part they already know: it’s not just about rights, although that’s important. Our lives are depending on it, too, and they are among the few legislators who seem to care about that. Remind them.

Insert bits about their actual issues here, from where I pasted them above, if you want to. Plus:

(Pro-legal marijuana Senators and presidential candidates also include Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Does this mean they support vapers, too?

Not necessarily! In a recent letter condemning the Trump Administration’s reversal on the vape ban, Warren and Klobuchar take a pretty strong anti-vaping position. Call them on it.

Find out more in our guide to candidates, coming soon.)

cannabis leaves
Legalize it politicians shouldn’t be anywhere near a vape ban–but here we are. Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

E: Free market principle politicians

There is a group of “free market” politicians who is against a vape ban generally.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)

This group is taking the position articulated by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) of the House Freedom Caucus and reported by Politico:

“I don’t know that there’s full support for what the administration is planning [this was when Trump was considering a vape ban].. . .There is unity in saying high school and young children should not have vaping products, and whatever we have to do to make sure that happens would be appropriate. But beyond that, affecting adults’ access to vaping products will not find real fertile soil here in the House. That’s not who we are as a free society.”

This is an “E” from our hypothetical discussion above. They don’t worry that it’s a dangerous public health decision, even. They don’t care! It’s about freedom, to them, and unless there’s a definitive, overwhelming danger that outweighs the freedom, they are not going to curtail it.

For more on this position, here is a piece on Sen. Johnson’s position on the White House’s proposed ban (before they backed down, anyway).

In this group you can probably also place:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for example, commenting on the vape ban on Twitter: “Yesterday I spoke at hearing on the government response to lung illnesses and rising youth e-cigarettes use. They say politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. I fear that’s what’s going on here.”

Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI)

Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) has not really been involved in this debate yet. I have also seen people Tweet him asking for his position, but no answers. However, based on the rest of his positions and votes, I am guessing he would not support a ban for purely libertarian reasons.

Everyone else

And then there’s everyone else.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)

Here, for example, is where I would place Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who governs where the tobacco industry and e-cigarette company blu are popular. Despite these ties, Tillis appears to take more of a health and safety stance discussing a ban: “It can’t be a business decision. It has to be a public health decision.”

Basic talking points:

This doesn’t speak, necessarily, to someone who will always vote against vaping.

For example, some politicians who are definitely against legalization will support cannabis banking measures and probably safer vaping measures, too. This is because with the issue of cannabis banking they see the writing on the wall: legalization is coming, and if we don’t want it in our state, we should make it less of a hassle in theirs.

This might happen with vaping, too. If enough people see the health issue as an overriding problem, then anti-cannabis people might need to relax on vaping. Why? Because otherwise vaping scares will push legalization and regulation! If they don’t want cannabis legal in their state, they might back down on vaping in certain cases, if that makes sense, just like they are backing down on banking in legal states.

On that list:

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) is a co-sponsor of the banking bill and says, “I see it really as a fairness bill, a fairness banking bill, more than a cannabis bill. And that’s okay.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) takes the same position: “It’s a problem that keeps coming up. I think you can be against marijuana and still understand that if it’s going to be a legalized product, we need to be able to control it through our banking system.”

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) is on the same team: “The politics of marijuana are changing. But there are a lot of people who are going to vote ‘yes’ on this who are not for the legalization of marijuana, like me.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

As of September, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) were promoting a bill which would raise the buying age for all tobacco to 21, nationwide. It would also set consistent national standards for flavor bans. It’s not clear, though, what that means for adult vapers, so for now, I place these two senators down here.

McConnell has called the “vaping crisis” a “public health epidemic.” So far, anti-smoking groups are supporting the bill, but they also reportedly have concerns that it is not strong enough. Sounds like a compromise.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Sen. Tim Kaine is also taking a moderate approach. Questioning the Trump nominee for FDA head, he asked whether the candidate would commit to investigating nicotine levels in e-cigarettes: “In 2016, the U.K. implemented a European Union directive … limiting the maximum volume of nicotine included in e-cigarette liquid to 20 mg/mL [one JUUL nicotine pod contains 59 mg/mL]. The U.K. has not seen an epidemic, or vaping linked to illnesses, and since nicotine is one of the most addictive substances there is, the strong suggestion is that the nicotine limit they put in place is one reason they’re not seeing the problems that we’ve seen.”

(If I had to call it, I would say McConnell would normally be a C subject to the Trump effect in many cases. Kaine is more of an X-factor to me based on his record, but I think this sounds reasonable for now, so I’ll keep him in B/E.)

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has argued that complete bans of all flavors will push smokers back to cigarettes and hurt small businesses. He is making the distinction between teens vaping and everyone else, like we want them all to do.

“Sound science should drive policymaking. Facts should drive policymaking,” he told Politico. And while he may also bow to money interests or the Trump effect, in this case, that shouldn’t hurt the vaping cause, at least for now.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL)

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), has challenged FDA nominee Hahn on vaping, signaling his willingness to ban flavors: “I will tell you I have been less than happy with many answers you gave with regard to vaping and the potential ban on flavored e-cigarettes.. . .I think you can tell this is one of the biggest issues that the Senate and Congress are facing right now. We want to see something happen; from where I sit, the data is in and it’s really strong.. . .This is going to require courage; the industry has got a lot of money invested. It’s going to take courage to say, ‘You’re damaging the health of children in this country.’”

It’s true that everyone loves to cry about The Children. But in Alabama there are many smokers and vapers, and regulations like this aren’t that popular. Also, Jones was barely elected over accused serial sex offender and demonstrable idiot Roy Moore (who could win), which tells you how hard his reelection is going to be. He will bow to pressure.

How to approach your officials

man, woman standing holding a sign that says, "You can't fix stupid, but you can vote it out!"
Look, it’s true. Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Here are a few helpful tips.

          1. First of all, please, for everyone’s sake: stop calling people names and threatening their lives online and stuff. Just one person’s opinion, but it truly doesn’t help.

We are a huge group of mostly ordinary people. Being represented like that makes us seem like we’re not.

I have personally worked with many people in government, including the people who answer calls and texts and emails for elected officials. The calm, respectful messages are the ones that get heard, even when they are serious and contain devastating information.

2. Second, make sure you are contacting the right people. Find out who represents you here. If they don’t represent you, you should almost never contact them.

There are sometimes reasons to contact people who don’t represent you, like when they propose legislation or head a committee. But other than that, make sure you choose the right ones, not just who you hate, or whatever.

3. Third, include talking points when you can. We have sample texts and emails to use below for every talking point, so mix and match!

4. Finally, if you feel comfortable, tell your story. Let them know it’s personal. Sometimes it actually helps.

If you’re a veteran, tell them. They all say they want to help, right? If you’re a single parent, let them know. These politician say they represent us and care about our issues. Let’s make them care.

Talking points and sample texts and emails for anti-vaping politicians

Talking point: Civil Liberties

I am writing to you to urge to you vote against/withdraw support for the vape ban/flavor ban. It violates civil liberties and I will not vote for anyone who supports it.

In general, Americans have long seen the difference between the public and private spheres. What we do in our homes is much different than what we do at work or in a public setting. This is a traditional American value.

Outright bans on products for vaping and e-cigarettes dangerously broadens the sphere of government control over the private activities of individuals to include what everyday people do in their own homes. Smokers and vapers have become the new pariahs in this atmosphere, but we are citizens like everyone else.

The founders adopted the Bill of Rights to limit government involvement in their lives. Today, modern Americans are also mostly unwilling to tolerate government intrusion. I am one of them.

Risks comes with just about every lifestyle choice each person makes. Whether we go outside to get a tan, or have children as the sea is rising, choose what goes on our tables, or vape, we are taking risks every day.

The Constitution sets forth where the line is drawn. The real issue here isn’t public safety in a time of panic. It is the right each and every one of us has to lead our lives just as we decide to do. We don’t live on the government’s time. Our private lives must remain our own.

The government must insure that everyone understands the health risks of vaping and smoking. It can achieve this with sound research and well-funded science, not to mention broad access to evidence-based smoking cessation strategies for anyone who wants them.

However, the decision to quit must always be a matter of individual choice. You wouldn’t force someone to engage in risky behavior such as skydiving or vaping. In a free society it hurts just as much to stop them with the full force and power of the government without a truly compelling reason—and there isn’t one here.

*[If you want, you can include this language or any part of it] Please note: I am opposing a mass vape ban of any kind, including on flavors, in a person’s own home. I do not oppose bans for youths, or in public buildings.

an American flag
Protect your rights from anti-vaping politicians. Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Talking point: Small Business

I am writing to you today to urge you to reconsider your position on the vape ban issue. It will hurt small businesses across the country, and I will not vote for anyone who supports it.

Right now, JUUL is the biggest company in the news when I see “vaping crisis.” However, it’s the small businesses that are going to suffer and die under a ban. JUUL is really Big Tobacco: it was founded in part off Altria’s $12.8 billion investment. It already has a team of lawyers on staff fighting lawsuits and dealing with regulatory and legal compliance costs.

Smaller competitors don’t have those superpowers and you know it. When other mom-and-pop stores are out of business, the only vaping devices left will be JUULs in many places. Economists agree, and history proves it.

In the 1920s, when alcohol was subject to Prohibition, small distillers and brewers went bust. But guess who survived? Anheuser-Busch and the makers of Jack Daniel’s, Brown-Forman.

When California ended the prohibition against cannabis, ending arrests and repealing criminal laws, it went further. It also established licensing fees, taxes, and other regulations—all of them cost money, by the way.

Big companies were better able to transition into the legal market with lawyers who could handle regulation and paperwork. But less than 10 percent of cannabis farmers in California’s Humboldt county, for example, are in the legal trade as of last year. In other words, just the cost of gearing up to fight a ban at all can put you out of business.

Complete bans demand compelling rationales. There is no such rationale here, because a less stringent remedy can produce the same safety result without the harm to business. The costs, benefits, and aggregate burden of every regulation—including this ban—must be debated. In this case, the regulation is both complex and costly, is too broad, and will chill innovation as it disproportionately burdens start-ups and smaller businesses compared to big incumbents.

Talking point: Medical State

I am writing to you as a constituent and citizen of ________, a medical marijuana state. I demand that you oppose any ban on vaping products.

[If you are a patient:]

As a patient, I am reliant on my medication. Vaping is a vital method of delivery for my medication. This ban will actively harm my health.

Even if you restrict the ban to e-cigarette flavors, you will set a dangerous precedent. By focusing on the delivery method itself instead of the root cause, you risk never solving the real problem. You also set us on a slippery slope, where we move toward losing more and more rights.

Furthermore, you will be ignoring the real issue: my ability to safely use my medications. If you ban e-cigarette flavors when dangerous black market additives are the real issue, you’re only hurting more people. I am one of them.

I have been vaping for ___ years. Do not turn me into a one-issue voter against you for the sake of my health.

[If you are not a patient:]

We, the voters of this state, made it very clear that we wanted to make medical marijuana in all of its forms available to patients who need it. Vaping is a vital method of delivery for this kind of medication. This ban will actively harm the health of my fellow citizens, including people I care about, and I won’t vote for anyone who supports it.

Even if you restrict the ban to e-cigarette flavors, you will set a dangerous precedent.

Furthermore, you will be ignoring the real issue: the ability everyone in this state with a qualifying medical condition should enjoy to safely use their medications. If you ban e-cigarette flavors when dangerous black market additives are the real issue, you’re only hurting more people and everyone who cares about them. I am one of them.

My [friends/relatives/neighbors] have been vaping for years. Do not turn me into a one-issue voter against you for the sake of their health.

Talking point: Recreational State

I am writing to you as a constituent and citizen of ________, a recreational cannabis state. I demand that you oppose any ban on vaping products.

[If you are a recreational user:]

I am a recreational user. I fought long and hard for this right, and I am not going back. Vaping is a safe, legitimate way for me to consume, and I’ve been vaping for years. I do not intend to stop now.

Even if you restrict the ban to e-cigarette flavors, you will set a dangerous precedent. By focusing on the delivery method itself instead of the root cause, you risk never solving the real problem. You also set us on a slippery slope, where we move toward losing more and more rights.

Furthermore, you will be ignoring the real issue: my rights, not to mention my right to health. If you ban e-cigarette flavors when dangerous black market additives are the real issue, you’re only hurting more people and allowing criminals to benefit.

I have been vaping for ___ years. Do not turn me into a one-issue voter against you for the sake of my rights.

[If you are a medical user:]

As a patient, I am reliant on my medication. Vaping is a vital method of delivery for my medication. This ban will actively harm my health.

Even if you restrict the ban to e-cigarette flavors, you will set a dangerous precedent. By focusing on the delivery method itself instead of the root cause, you risk never solving the real problem. You also set us on a slippery slope, where we move toward losing more and more rights.

Furthermore, you will be ignoring the real issue: my ability to safely use my medications. If you ban e-cigarette flavors when dangerous black market additives are the real issue, you’re only hurting more people. I am one of them.

I have been vaping for ___ years. Do not turn me into a one-issue voter against you for the sake of my health.

[If you are neither a user nor a patient:]

We, the voters of this state, made it very clear that we wanted to make cannabis in all of its forms available to anyone who wants or needs it. Vaping is a vital method of cannabis delivery. This ban will actively impinge on the rights and harm the health of my fellow citizens, including people I care about, and I won’t vote for anyone who supports it.

Even if you restrict the ban to e-cigarette flavors, you will set a dangerous precedent. By focusing on the delivery method itself instead of the root cause, you risk never solving the real problem. You also set us on a slippery slope, where we move toward losing more and more rights.

Are my favorite foods next? Things I like to drink? Hobbies? If you support this ban, I know I could be next.

Furthermore, you will be ignoring the real issue: the ability everyone in this state with a qualifying medical condition should enjoy to safely use their medications. If you ban e-cigarette flavors when dangerous black market additives are the real issue, you’re only hurting more people and everyone who cares about them. I am one of them.

My [friends/relatives/neighbors] have been vaping for years. Do not turn me into a one-issue voter against you for the sake of their rights and health.

flasks with plants in them in a lab
If you want answers about science and health, fund research. Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Talking point: Fund Research

I am writing to urge you to change your position on/vote against the vape ban. You have cited a lack of knowledge or medical research into vaping and/or e-cigarettes as a concern. As your constituent, I demand that you pursue a real solution to this issue, not something that is done for political show.

Literally the only answer to a lack of research is producing research in the area. You have the power to solve the problem, because as a member of the legislative branch, your job is to apportion money.

Take this opportunity to fund research into the health and safety impacts of vaping and e-cigarettes if these issues concern you. But banning these products that millions rely on without even finding out the answer is unfair, unsafe, and unethical.

I will not vote for anyone who supports this ban.

Talking point: Regulate for Safety, Not Prohibition

I am writing to urge you to vote against the vape ban. This is the position that best supports regulating for safety while avoiding overbroad prohibitions.

A ban isn’t safe. In fact, it will make things much worse.

First of all, there is still no question about it: smoking traditional cigarettes is more dangerous. This has been proven time and time again.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review

Even skeptics, when pushed, admit e-cigarettes are a safer alternative:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/scott-gottlieb-e-cigarettes-are-not-off-the-hook/2019/09/04/b1da5358-cf3a-11e9-b29b-a528dc82154a_story.html

E-cigarettes are twice as effective when it comes to smoking cessation than alternatives like gum.

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1808779

And the repeated lie that adults don’t like flavors is just that: fiction. I know, because I’m one of the many adults who loves them. But more than that, research proves adults prefer fruit and sweet flavors:

https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-018-0238-6

Vaping is still much safer than smoking:

https://www.vox.com/2019/11/22/20977418/vaping-lung-disease-ban-public-health

If you ban e-cigarettes, you will push people back to smoking by default, including the youths you are trying to help.

https://reason.com/2019/07/15/san-franciscos-top-economist-confirms-vape-ban-means-more-smoking/

A ban will also further encourage the black market—the very source of the problem.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/checkup/e-cigarette-ban-would-create-a-vaping-black-market-public-health-expert-1.5274794

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/potential-culprits-in-mystery-lung-illnesses-black-market-vaping-products/2019/09/24/cb5b708e-d98d-11e9-ac63-3016711543fe_story.html

This is the principle difference between the UK and US markets, and there is no crisis in the UK.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/07/health-experts-reassure-vapers-products-in–uk-are-safe

I can tell you that I will not support anyone who does not regulate for safety while avoiding overbroad prohibitions. Please do not turn me into a one-issue voter against you.

Talking point: Legalization

I am writing to you to urge you to oppose the vape ban. I further urge you to work to deschedule cannabis as a Schedule I drug.

As you may know, recently Anne Schucat, an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC testified before the Senate:

https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/examining-the-response-to-lung-illnesses-and-rising-youth-electronic-cigarette-use

“I do think that labeling and information can help people know what they’re getting and then the systems that are there to enforce that the product is what it says it is can also help the consumer,” stated Schucat.

The National Cannabis Industry Association has also demanded that Congress deschedule cannabis, along with more than 800 marijuana industry representatives. The goal is to help our healthcare professionals cope with severe lung injuries related to vaping.

Schucat also indicated that the overly restrictive Schedule I status on marijuana is among the factors hampering the investigation of vaping-related lung injuries that federal officials are conducting. In fact, treating marijuana as a dangerous drug slows the transfer of samples for testing and generally chills the research process.

If you truly want to protect public health and safety, you will recognize what the massive body of science shows: cannabis is not a dangerous drug. Treating it as such is creating its own public health crisis now—one you have the power to stop.

Furthermore, taking the position that cannabis should be legal yet all tobacco products must be banned is illogical. It is ethically inconsistent, and I cannot and will not get behind that position.

I will never vote for anyone who supports this ban. If you do, it makes me really question your commitment to legalization—and my further support for you.

The vast majority of Americans support decriminalization at a minimum.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/11/14/americans-support-marijuana-legalization/

It’s time to stop banning and start focusing on real policy solutions.

Talking point: Universal Healthcare/Access to Healthcare

I am writing to urge you to oppose the vape ban as a matter of better healthcare policy and fairness. Based on your stated positions, access to healthcare/universal healthcare is important to you. For this reason, I can’t see how you could support a vape ban.

First of all, there is still no question about it: smoking traditional cigarettes is more dangerous than vaping. This has been proven time and time again.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review

Even skeptics, when pushed, admit e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/scott-gottlieb-e-cigarettes-are-not-off-the-hook/2019/09/04/b1da5358-cf3a-11e9-b29b-a528dc82154a_story.html

If we accept that it is better for our healthcare system that people try to quit smoking, then we need to give them options. E-cigarettes are twice as effective when it comes to smoking cessation than alternatives like gum.

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1808779

And the repeated lie that adults don’t like flavors is just that: fiction. I know, because I’m one of the many adults who loves them. But more than that, research proves adults prefer fruit and sweet flavors:

https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-018-0238-6

Vaping is still much safer than smoking all around:

https://www.vox.com/2019/11/22/20977418/vaping-lung-disease-ban-public-health

If you ban e-cigarettes, you will push people back to smoking by default, including the youths you are trying to help.

https://reason.com/2019/07/15/san-franciscos-top-economist-confirms-vape-ban-means-more-smoking/

This burdens our healthcare system which is already inadequate to the nation’s needs. If you really want more people to be healthier, oppose this ban.

If you don’t, you will lose my vote.

"I voted" stickers against a white backdrop
Vapers who vote have power. Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Talking point: Disparate Impact

I am urging you to oppose the flavor ban on vaping products, because it will disproportionately affect people of color. I will not vote for any politician who causes this kind of disparate impact on communities of color.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), for example, supports sensible regulation of e-cigarettes, but not an outright flavor ban for several reasons. First, the proposed legislation is likely to push vapers—including youths—to acquire products on the black market. We already know how dangerous this can be.

Second, prohibition fails, leading vapers to smoke again. This again disproportionately affects communities that receive more tobacco marketing, including communities of color. Lawmakers should therefore focus on accountability and responsible marketing regulations for businesses that violate the law—not bans.

The flavor ban unfairly limits consumer choice in a paternalistic way. Furthermore, it does so even as it fails to reduce youth access, since most underage users don’t even purchase their vaping products through legitimate channels.

Time and again communities of color and allies have been let down by a government that fails to listen. This is your opportunity to avoid that destructive pattern and save lives in the process.

Oppose this ban and instead look for evidence-based solutions and sensible regulation. Make your opposition to this ban a strong steps to reduce the disproportionate impact smoking has always had on communities of color.

Talking point: Veterans and Vaping

I am writing to urge you to oppose the vape/flavor ban. Based on your issues and platform, I want to emphasize to you that this is a veteran’s issue.

Research proves that veterans experience mental health disorders, post-traumatic stress, substance use disorders, and traumatic brain injury at higher rates than civilians:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4671760/

Veterans are also more likely to be smokers:

https://news.gallup.com/poll/172061/discharged-veterans-likely-tobacco.aspx

Any outright ban that prevents access to e-cigarettes and/or vaping products will affect veterans unfairly in several ways:

It could push veterans back to traditional smoking. It could expose veterans to harmful black market products. It could prevent veterans who are medical marijuana patients from accessing what they need to administer their medications.

If you care about veterans as much as I do, you will oppose this ban. Instead, back more access to more alternatives, and sensible regulations for these products on the adult market.

I will never vote for anyone who supports this ban.

Talking point: Hold Big Business Accountable

I am writing to urge you to hold big businesses like JUUL accountable instead of destroying mom-and-pop vape shops by opposing the vape ban. Based on your alleged commitment to corporate accountability, I am hoping you will be consistent and make big business comply with appropriate safety regulations and costs instead of passing the burden onto small businesses and consumers.

Right now, big businesses like JUUL are spending millions to fight the publicity generated by the “vaping crisis.” But it’s the small businesses that are going to suffer and die under a ban.

If you came to Congress to hold big business accountable, start here. JUUL is really Big Tobacco: it was founded in part off Altria’s $12.8 billion investment. It already has a team of lawyers on staff fighting lawsuits and dealing with regulatory and legal compliance costs.

When California ended the prohibition against cannabis, ending arrests and repealing criminal laws, it went further. It also established licensing fees, taxes, and other regulations—and all were intended to keep consumers safe and monitor how businesses earn their money in the health and wellness space.

Big companies were better able to transition into the legal market with lawyers who could handle regulation and paperwork. But less than 10 percent of cannabis farmers in California’s Humboldt county, for example, are in the legal trade as of last year. In other words, just the cost of gearing up to fight a ban at all can put you out of business.

Even bans are not enough to take on big business. Only sunlight, evidence, and ongoing attention can do that.

This is an opportunity for legislators to shift the burden away from smaller businesses and focus attention on only larger businesses that are proven bad actors. A less stringent remedy is both better for small business and people, and more effective for holding big business accountable.

Protecting the right to vape from anti-vaping politicians

white vapor against a black background
How to protect your rights from anti-vaping politicians. Photo by Luke Besley on Unsplash

There are several groups out there right now working on this issue. Here are some useful links:

We Vape, We Vote is trying to mobilize vapers to take political action.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fights overreach of all kinds, including things like nicotine testing in schools and overbroad vape bans.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) focuses on smoking cessation and harm reduction. They have been a strong voice of reason throughout the vaping crisis.

The American Vaping Association is another resource.

I will place Project CBD here too, simply because their mission is debunking BS and demystifying all things cannabis, and that is going to include some vaping.

Health Professionals for Patients in Pain deploys its members to write sensible critiques of the current fear-mongering policies like this one.

And don’t forget: Your VV team is on top of this.