Jay Rockefeller's Vaping Vapors

A Senate hearing highlights irrational hostility toward e-cigarettes.


"I should warn you that emotionally I'm on edge," Jay Rockefeller announced as he convened a Senate hearing last week. He was not kidding.

"I'm ashamed of you," the West Virginia Democrat told Jason Healy and Craig Weiss, as if they were his deeply disappointing offspring. "I don't know how you go to sleep at night.…You're what's wrong with this country."

What exactly had Healy and Weiss done to rouse Rockefeller's ire? As the presidents of two leading electronic cigarette companies, Blu eCigs and NJoy, they had promoted what Healy plausibly called "the most significant tobacco harm reduction product ever." Rockefeller's sanctimonious outburst illustrated the baffling hostility to that product among people who claim to care about smoking-related disease and death.

Rockefeller's hearing was ostensibly all about the children. "E-cigarette manufacturers are aggressively promoting their products using techniques and venues that appeal to youth," Rockefeller complained, while a pediatrician worried about "the aggressive marketing of electronic cigarettes and its impact on youth."

For those who view advertising and promotion as acts of aggression (rather than, say, speech protected by the First Amendment), the justification for banning them is obvious. But where is the evidence that Healy and Weiss, who insist their intended audience is adult smokers, are in fact targeting minors?

One witness, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, cited "scantily clad model[s]" in e-cigarette ads. Every heterosexual man in America can testify that he immediately lost interest in that sort of thing when he turned 18.

Rockefeller explained that "little kids" are "looking for things which they get to see a lot of it in the advertising." Such as? "One of the nice things is that you can sort of mimic the act of smoking," said the 77-year-old senator. "It's cool. Kids are cool."

So advertising that demonstrates vaping's superficial resemblance to smoking, which is the main selling point of e-cigarettes, is beyond the pale, and so is anything else that kids might consider cool. Rockefeller said e-cigarette companies also betray their interest in underage consumers by advertising on TV, "using celebrity spokespeople," sponsoring "youth-oriented sporting and cultural events," promoting their brands via social media, "handing out free product samples" (even with age verification), and offering e-cigarette fluid in a variety of flavors.

"I am an adult," Rockefeller said. "Would I be attracted to Cherry Crush, Chocolate Treat, Peachy Keen, Vanilla Dreams? No, I wouldn't."

Call it the Rockefeller Rule: If an e-cigarette flavor does not appeal to Jay Rockefeller, it could not possibly appeal to anyone older than 17. Yet Healy testified that survey data indicate "the average age of a cherry smoker is in the high 40s."

According to a poll by CASAA, a consumer group, half of adult e-cigarette users prefer nontobacco flavors. Picking a variety that tastes quite different from conventional cigarettes is one strategy for avoiding a switch back to tobacco, which is less appealing after you get used to a fruity or candy-flavored nicotine fix.

Because the critics of "aggressive e-cigarette marketing" cannot support their charge that companies like Blu and NJoy must be targeting children, they fall back on the claim that intent does not matter. They say advertising and flavors that might appeal to minors simply cannot be tolerated, regardless of the intended audience.

The problem is that people will not make the potentially lifesaving switch from smoking to vaping—a switch that the Food and Drug Administration, which is developing regulations for e-cigarettes, concedes "would be good for public health"—if they do not know about these products. Restrictions imposed in the name of protecting children therefore can have deadly consequences for adults.

Rockefeller gave the game away early in the hearing, when he asked Healy and Weiss, "Why in heaven's name are you going ahead and marketing these things and selling these things?" According to Rockefeller, the only responsible thing for an e-cigarette company to do is go out of business.

NEXT: Brickbat: Parental Involvement

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  1. "I don't know how you go to sleep at night.?You're what's wrong with this country."

    Watch that projection, Jay, someone might hit their head on it.

    1. This is bogus Capitalism with the major tobacco companies actually feeling a real threat from the e cigarette companies. Whether they are safe or not its still smoking so how can you allow tobacco companies use additives and not allow e cigarettes.

  2. America is a kakistocracy, ruled by the worst.

  3. "....You're what's wrong with this country."

    Thats right Jay, people who innovate ways to reduce the use of disease inducing products are what is wrong with this country. You nailed it.

    Oh wait, you are a Senator from West Virginia. Hmmm. Maybe there is something you aren't telling us.

    1. Wait a second, you're not accusing a politician of ignoring the public good for the benefit of his constituents or contributors are you?

      Shame on you.

  4. It is very appropriate to trout out a quote from that old sage Mencken: Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

    Jay Rockefeller is a gigantic asshole. Aside from its primary obvious purpose of permanently hooking tweens into lifelong addiction, nicotine is useful for many people wishing to keep their weight under control. It is also an agent that has anti-anxiety properties.

    One of the worst aspects of anti-ecig zealotry is the fact that the second hand smoke nuisance and health risk argumens simply do not apply. What ever to replace the vacuum? The stupid old tired "children" argument comes into play again.

    Speaking as someone that has never used an ecig, this hysteria coupled with growing acceptance of cannabis smoking/vaping culture, is utterly baffling. Rockefeller sits there and is unaffected by the executive's use of hard data, exactly the kind of disposition we all need making public policy choices.

    Mr Rockefeller, I hope the ecig distress drives you to a brain aneurysm.

  5. So basically our ruling TOP MEN are:

    a. evil
    b. soulless killjoys
    c. stupid fucking cunts
    d. psychopaths determined to kill as many people as possible "for the children"
    e. all of the above

    I'll go with e.

    1. pshhh. You act like some 2 year old took a flashbang to the chest last month.

  6. If you haven't acquainted yourself with Senator Rockefeller's positions on censorship, war, torture, and warrantless wiretapping, then give yourself a hollow cynical laugh here

    1. Holy shit, he actually said:
      "McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they get to the ground? He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues."

      So he endorsed, the Drone King, because, he cares so much about the people he kills from thousands of miles away by proxy, not just a measly few like that evil McCain.

      1. Shit? did they have laser gilded bombs/missiles back when McCain flew?

        1. A few. I don't know the exact details and I am too lazy to look it up, but laser guided bombs were developed in the Vietnam era.

  7. You don't get a name like Rockefeller without knowing what's best for commoners.

    1. So all Rockefellers are adopted?

  8. When Jay Rockefeller goes to IHOP, he tells the waitress to through the fruit in the trash, see, he only eats his pancakes plane, without syrup or butter, and he washes them down with luke warm tap water, because he is an adult.

    1. I seriously doubt John Davidson Rockefeller IV has ever stepped foot in such a "vulgar" place as IHOP. When his family's "domestic assistant" Lupita brings out his apple bulgar wheat pancakes with fresh cream, expertly crafted by the family's private chef, he washes it down with coffee brewed from a custom mix of only the finest beans flown in from the Yucatan Pennisula weekly.

      1. If he never goes to IHOP then how would he view all the amazing artwork taped to the wall drawn by the childrenz that he cares so much about?

        1. He has assistants to view it for him. They then write up a report about it at taxpayer expense.

  9. "Would I be attracted to Cherry Crush, Chocolate Treat, Peachy Keen, Vanilla Dreams? No, I wouldn't."

    You can pry my Peachy Keen flavored E-cigarettes from my cold dead hands, Jay.

  10. Because the critics of "aggressive e-cigarette marketing" cannot support their charge that companies like Blu and NJoy must be targeting children, they fall back on the claim that intent does not matter. They say advertising and flavors that might appeal to minors simply cannot be tolerated, regardless of the intended audience.

    I feel like we're missing another point here. Where is the evidence that if you're under 18 e-cigarettes are bad for you? I'm sure they're not good for you, but a 15 year old pounding cans of monster is probably harming his body more than a 15 year old who is vaping.

  11. "Well, Senator, when I have trouble sleeping I remind myself that I didn't swell the national debt to 16 trillion dollars, and that I haven't burdened my country with unsustainable benefit programs."

    1. Oh god. this would have been the best shit to watch.

    2. By unsustainable benefit programs i am sure you are referring to the military industrial complex and not welfare (which feeds the majority of poor CHILDREN); in fact each of the programs not related to military is less than half the federal budget. I hope we have at lease not as much of a problem helping our fellow humans live vs die visavia military.

  12. Proggies really are animist aren't they? Ecigs look just like those evil cancer sticks, and are therefore infused with the same black magic.

  13. I was in Moab, UT over the weekend, and noticed a bit of propoganda that was on the outside of a convenience store. "E-cigarettes are banned where cigarettes are". It ended with:

    "If the fact that e-cigarettes are untested and unsafe doesn't deter you, then the fact that they are banned should" or some shit like that.

    I literally said out loud to no one "How the fuck do you know they're unsafe if they're untested!?!?!?"

    1. Oh yeah, this bit of tripe came from the State of Utah, not the store itself. The guy inside the store was vaping himself, and was a generally cool dude

      1. Well, Mormons don't even like caffeine, so this isn't terribly surprising.

    2. Unsafe? Compared to what? Find me a study that says e-cigs are even CLOSE to the danger of cigarettes.

      1. The only "study" i found via Google calims the inhale of a typical ecig is basically the same and inhaling during rush hour any any downtown major US city and the exhale is basically the same a fog...there was a picture of a filter used in a vaping only room vs a cig room...the vaping room there was nothing on the filter. You can imagine the cig room:

        url will follow with returns-

  14. These Ecigs may result in some child somewhere realizing that adults still have a shred of freedom left concerning what they put in their bodies. BTW does there ever come a point when "the greater good" can stop being used as an excuse to make the majority miserable.

  15. These Ecigs may result in some child somewhere realizing that adults still have a shred of freedom left concerning what they put in their bodies. BTW does there ever come a point when "the greater good" can stop being used as an excuse to make the majority miserable.

  16. Does it not occur to anyone else that Jay's stance on e-cigs would be more fitting of the Republican caucus, not the Democratic? Except for the fact that under Obamacare, only smokers may be charged a premium rate. Not obese people. Not drug addicts. Only smokers. If e-cigs do in fact cut the number of smokers, that is a lot of money the insurance companies will lose out on to help offset all the additional costs of Obamacare. Fact is, obesity is a far more costly problem than smoking, especially since less than 20% of Americans smoke, but well more than 50% of the population is obese.

    As a smoker, I checked with my employer provided insurance company to find out if I switched to e-cigs, would I still be considered a smoker for cost purposes. Not only was the answer a resounding yes, if I use ANY product containing nicotine, I'm a smoker. Therefore, if I completely quit smoking anything and everything for say 2 years (and claim to the insurance company that I am a non-smoker), and then I have a very stressful situation in which I desire a cigarette, but instead chew a piece of nicotine gum, I have in fact defrauded my insurance company. According to them, if at any time I am given a blood test and nicotine shows up, I am a smoker, no matter what manner the nicotine got there. Furthermore, the only smoking cessation they will pay for is prescription drugs, no patches, no gums, nothing.

  17. Say, they don't grow tobacco in West Virginny or anything...do they?

  18. In these hearings, are there any Senators calling bullshit on this irrational indignation - say perhaps a "freedom-loving, less-government-in-our-lives" Republican? Or are they just sitting on their asses and doing nothing as usual? Voters would like to know and they'd like to know names.

  19. No Jay, you are exactly whats wrong with this country. It's bad enough that you feel entitled to push your protectionist cause on the people you serve but now it's without any justification. At least with the youth smoking issue you had a bit of a legitimate stance. Now, you simply perceive the e-cig vaping a nothing more than a "loophole" for children to smoke. Your lack of mental evolution causes you to feel like you're losing a battle in which you fought so hard to gain traction. The fact of the matter is, adverse health affects from the inhalation of smoke is the issue here. Nicotine as it stands alone has no adverse effects beyond monetary lose of the user. If children want to vape, then let them vape. Its a new time.

  20. Senator Rockefeller,
    In the hearing regarding e-cigarette companies marketing to children your statements were irrational and (as a West Virginia resident) embarrassing. Your accusations that e-cigarette companies market to children are found-less and absurd. I can only reason that you have some tobacco company's interest in mind when you attack these companies that produce a healthier alternative. How much are they paying you?
    You have done a poor job representing Independent voters such as myself, as well as our wonderful state in general. I understand you're retiring this year and won't run again. I ask you to please sit on your hands and do no more damage to our country and state's reputation until your gone.

  21. Why should an elitist, like all the others, know whats best for their slaves...look at his families ties to the fringe religious cult of AA which has been and continues to be a major obstacle to understanding and EVIDENCE-based substance abuse treatment. Abstinence only through a higher power (elitist)can be the ONLY answer according to our overlords like Jay and the DuPont/Flogers/Dole...etc..et.al.

    Peaceful resistance and revolution is the only answer. Sorry.

  22. I hate lying politicians who think the people they represent are complete idiots.
    Seems Jay loves his candy flavors.

    1. Sweet!

      Hypocrisy comes in many flavors. Jay would approve of Bacon flavored e-cigs but I've tried them and it's truly nasty.

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