The vape mail ban which goes into effect tomorrow, is said by government officials to be for the protection of children. However, as blocking the safer way of smoking, while offering no better options, the vape mail ban will likely hurt kids even more.
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The whole thing has been fishy from the get-go, with Trump signing off on the omnibus corona relief bill last December, setting into motion a flurry of new laws concerning how tobacco products and cannabis products can be sent in the mail. How would such laws be part of a corona relief bill? Good question. The Omnibus Appropriations and Coronavirus Relief Package is an omnibus bill, which means it functions differently than other laws. They are made to include many different laws on many different topics, and as such, are not debated in congress as they are too expansive and varied to debate. They simply need to pass a vote and that’s it.
Omnibus bills often carry ‘riders’, or unrelated laws that have nothing to do with the main subject matter, and are known as a way for the government to pass legislation under the cover of night. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means what it sounds like. Doing something in darkness so no one can see. Other similar methods of keeping pending legislation away from regular citizens, and passing unpopular laws, include voting on laws in the middle of the night, voting on holidays, not releasing draft legislation to the public, and promoting bigger media stories to divert attention.
So we can infer from how it was passed that it wasn’t desirable for us (the public) to know a whole lot about it. The bill had actually already passed both houses of congress by last summer in a different form, but President Trump originally had no desire to sign the bill. He did so later on in the year. The provision for the mail vape ban, called the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, goes into effect on March 28th. The ban is specifically on tobacco vape products, with cannabis products falling into this category due to 2008’s Federal Law for Control of Tobacco Products bill.
The law is expansive, targeting every piece of equipment that can be used to vape anything, in any form – cannabis, tobacco, oils – as well as anything that comes in a cartridge and can be vaped, like CBD, delta-8 THC, e-juice, or nicotine cartridges. All other parts and paraphernalia related are included as well. USPS was not given an option as it’s a government agency. UPS, DHL, and FedEx all chose to apply the same rules. Given that kids have been choosing vaping over smoking a lot these days, the vape ban might very well hurt kids more by not allowing access to a safer alternative.
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Is this a ban?
No, not at all. A ban means something is not allowed. A banned product means that it’s production, sale and use are all illegal, and in this case, none of that is true. All the products mentioned above are legal to produce, sell, and use (with some products riding a legal gray line), the only thing banned, is the shipment, and even that isn’t banned at all. What is banned, is using the mail system to send unregulated products through the mail.
And the law is not so much a ban, but a requirement to adhere to regulatory standards that happen to have a scary amount to do with reporting on customers, though they also close tax holes that have allowed for lost revenue to the government (fair enough, I guess), and weirdly… protect kids? The latter reason, of course, is the stated reason. But this mail vape ban seems more to be a continuation of PACT, which acted to close tax holes on tobacco products by forcing high levels of regulation in 2009, and which acted itself as an update to the Jenkins law of 1949. In order for a company to be able to send vape products through the mail, they will have to do the following:
- Verify age of all customers
- Submit information on all customer purchases (products and numbers)
- Update all customer information when changed or no ability for delivery
- Use only specific post offices that were named in the beginning
- Bring all packages in for face-to-face processing
- Collect signature at point of delivery by an adult, and only use private shipping services to do so
- Register with ATF and all relevant state and local government offices for where company will do business
- Pay taxes to all relevant agencies, and apply required tax stamps to products
These regulations not only require companies to violate customer privacy by reporting to the government about products being bought, but it puts a lot of specific requirements on shipping that slow down the general process, and which require companies to apply sales or excise taxes that they had not been, thus raising prices. It also adds a degree of difficulty considering taxation is a complicated subject, all states have their own specific laws, and companies must be in complete compliance in order to operate. This will make it harder for smaller companies that can’t pay out as much, especially in the beginning transitional period. It is also very bad for companies that make many and big shipments, which means it hurts manufacturers as much as suppliers.
What are the kids up to these days?
If the stated reason for this law is to protect children, let’s look at whether the vape mail ban will help kids or hurt kids more. When it comes to overall tobacco use, according to the CDC, approximately 7/100 kids in middle school (6.7%), and 23/100 high school students (23.6) reported use of a product in 2020. The agency goes on to say that in 2019, approximately 1/4 of kids in middle school, and 1/2 of high school students said they tried a tobacco product at least one time.
When looking at cigarettes vs e-cigs, the numbers are as follows: in 2020, 1/20 of middle school students reported using an e-cig within the past month, and about 1/5 high school students reported the same. For the same year, 1/50 middle school students claimed to have smoked a cigarette in the past month, and 1/20 of high school students said the same. This shows a trend toward e-cigs. When I was in high school way back in the 90’s, all of these would have been cigarette smokers, and to be quite honest, the numbers seem a bit low.
How dangerous is smoking cigarettes vs vaping? According to the CDC, from the inception of vaping in the early 2000’s until February 18, 2020, there were a total of 2,807 hospitalizations reported, and 68 confirmed vape-related deaths. These have almost exclusively been attributed to additives, meaning the actual vaping of material is not causing a problem, and the need for regulation is in the chemicals that can be used. This is important, because more than 480,000 deaths are attributable to cigarettes every year, also according to the CDC.
When putting the numbers side-by-side it becomes that much clearer how not a problem vaping is, and how much better an option over smoking it is. 68 deaths over many years of time, does nothing to compete with 480,000 deaths a year, with 41,000 attributed to second-hand smoke. Far as I know, there haven’t been any reported second-hand vape deaths. And this comparison is during what is being called a ‘vape-epidemic’ (which really translates to an epidemic of people stopping cigarette smoking), which means with just a little clean-up regulation, there could be no deaths at all. This is literally the healthiest epidemic ever.
What else are kids up to?
What else are kids up to that’s bad for them? How about underage drinking. According to the NIH, in the 2019 NSDUH it was estimated that 414,000 kids between the ages of 12-17 in the US, have AUD – alcohol use disorder. Regardless of what stipulates having this disorder, let’s remember that we’re talking about people 12-17 years old, so it suffices to say plenty of kids are drinking.
The NIH puts the annual death total in the US alone at 95,000. In 2016, the global death total was approximated at 3 million deaths from alcohol, with that year 14% of deaths between 20-39 year old’s being related to alcohol. A 2014 WHO report put alcohol misuse as the 1st leading risk factor for death and disability of the age group 15-49.
And let’s not forget the real epidemic of drug use in the US…opioids. What’s going on with opiates and kids these days? According to drugabuse.gov, just under 50,000 people died of opioid use in 2019. According to the WHO, 70% of the half million drug-related deaths a year globally are related to opioids. According to the AAFP – American Academy of Family Physicians, which points at this 2017 National Survey on Drug use and Health, just under 770,000 kids between ages 12-17 misused opioids, with about 14,000 trying heroin. No death statistics were given.
However, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine analyzed CDC mortality data, and found that opioids (whether prescription or not) were responsible for nearly 9,000 deaths of children and teens in the US between 1999-2016.
Have smoking initiation trends substantially changed in kids?
Every year, a lot of kids are going to start smoking something. Granted, this number can go up and down. Cancer.gov pointed out how now less than 14% of adults smoke compared to 43% in 1965. As far as kids, smoking reached a peak in the mid 90’s with 33.5% of high school seniors smoking cigarettes, compared to 2.4% in 2019. But that number will never be at 0. Just like kids are going to have sex and junkies are going to use needles.
The fact that there are efforts to hand out free condoms and clean needles says a lot about the ultimate understanding that people will do what they’ll do, and sometimes the best thing isn’t to impose a lot of laws, but to offer protective measures. When looking at smoking, when comparing numbers, vaping is very clearly the best protective measure out there for smoking. Yeah, it’s better if people don’t smoke, totally 100% understood! But, if they’re going to do it, better to use the method that killed about 68 people over many years, than the one killing hundreds of thousands per year. If it pushes kids back toward cigarettes, the vape mail ban will most definitely hurt kids more.
Vape mail ban will hurt kids more
Seems to be that when you take away a protective measure, that exposure to the original issue would likely be intensified. It will now be way harder to get these products online, but ‘online’ didn’t exist in the 90’s, and that’s when smoking peaked for kids. So, online ordering doesn’t seem to be the issue at all. It just seems to be about kids smoking. Although, let’s be honest, the internet and online shopping have given the ability for a greater volume of available products.
Let’s say a kid is going to start smoking today and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Would it be better for the kid to light up and smoke a cigarette, or smoke an e-cig? According to all death statistics, it’s vaping. You want that kid vaping. The fact that kids caught on to the safer measure without any help is amazing, and it’s now all being stunted by limiting access, which will likely put a lit cigarette back in many kid’s hands.
Personally, I believe the vape mail ban will hurt kids, because it takes away what is statistically shown to be the safer option. By such a massive margin that it’s silly to have this discussion. The answer (as I see it) was to regulate the chemicals that can be used in these products, not to take away the thing that has weened so many people off of one of the biggest, yet avoidable threats to human health.
My expectation is that if this law holds, one or both of the following will happen: it will incite the creation of a bigger black market for the products that can no longer be legally shipped. And/or it’ll lead to way more kids smoking real cigarettes, meaning the vape ban will indeed hurt kids. Either way, how exactly it would help is confusing, and there doesn’t seem to be much to back up that it would.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a medical professional, I have no formal legal education, and I’ve never been to business school. All information in my articles is sourced from other places, which are always referenced, and all opinions stated are mine, and are made clear to be mine. I am not giving anyone advise of any kind, in any capacity. I am more than happy to discuss topics, but should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a professional in the relevant field for more information.