At D.C. Rally, Activists Want Trump to Know That They Vape and They Vote

A pending ban on flavored nicotine vaping products would destroy most of their industry warn vaping advocates.


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Several thousand activists gathered Saturday on the National Mall to voice their opposition to a federal ban on flavored nicotine vaping products. The ban, they say, will be lethal for the vaping industry, and for millions of ex-smokers who have relied on these products to quit cigarettes.

The crowd was blanketed by a heavy fog of fragrant-smelling vape clouds, but the message was crystal clear: If President Donald Trump continues with his plans for a flavor ban, he risks alienating a large, motivated bloc of single-issue voters who might otherwise be in his camp.

"We have an audience, in the short term, of one," says Greg Conley, executive director of the United Vapers Alliance, which organized the rally. "Thousands of consumers and small business owners [have] made it very loud and clear that if [Trump] allowed this to go through, it could cost him reelection in 2020."

In September, prompted partly by a rise in teen vaping and partly by the spread of a fatal vaping-related lung disease, Trump announced that the federal government would ban most flavored nicotine vaping products and push forward the deadline for when vaping products are required to get FDA approval from 2022 to May 2020. Last Friday, the president also said that he would raise the age required to buy vaping products to 21.

But those laws are unlikely to stop the problems they are supposed to solve. A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published last week, has given yet more support to the theory that the vaping-related lung disease is caused by a vitamin E acetate found in illicit THC vaping cartridges, not the flavored nicotine products that would be subject to Trump's ban.

For many at Saturday's rally, Trump's prohibitionist impulse is a stab in the back from a president they were counting on to take a deregulatory approach to their industry.

"I voted for Trump on the promise that he going to go in and undo regulations [and] allow small businesses to flourish," Matthew Kleizo, the owner of several Florida vape stores, told Reason. The president's support for a flavor ban, he warned, "will come back to bite him."

James Howard, who owns two stores with his wife in Colorado Springs, expressed a similar sentiment. "I'm a right-leaning independent. I support Trump. I 100 percent do not support this at all. This is not a conservative tactic," he said Saturday.

On a sound stage, speakers talked of being disappointed and even betrayed by Trump and his flavor ban, which they considered arbitrary and "un-American." In the crowd, store owners and others held signs that said, "We Vape, We Vote." A flavor ban, they warned, would be fatal to an industry that The Washington Post as recently as September dubbed "a miraculous small-business success story."

Analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Post found that the number of tobacconists (a category that includes vape shops) had grown over 100 percent in the last decade, far faster than other retail. The number of people employed by these tobacconists had grown at a similar rate. Two-thirds of vape-shop workers are employed by businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

A study from the Vapor Technology Association (VTA), a trade association, found that the industry has created, either directly or indirectly, some 166,007 jobs.

For others, the issue of a flavor ban was more personal. Flavored nicotine vaping products had been essential in helping them quitting smoking. A ban, they said, might prevent others from doing the same, or even encourage some vapers go back to cigarettes.

Lots of attendees at the rally sported Mad Libs–style T-shirts on which they filled out their name, the number of years they smoked, and the flavor that helped them quit.

A group of thirtysomethings from North Carolina told Reason that they couldn't have quit without flavors, listing candy cane, apple butter toast, and "Propaganda Illuminati" (apparently a fruity flavor) as the ones that helped them the most.

"This is not a lifestyle, it's life or death," said one speaker from the stage. She asked if anyone in the crowd had lost a loved one to a smoking-related illness. Almost everyone had.

The individual anecdotes are backed up by the data, says Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist at the American Enterprise Institute who attended Saturday's rally.

"When flavors are threatened or aren't available, they'll return to smoking or they'll go to a black market vape in that situation," said Satel. "We've already seen what black market THC does. We're setting ourselves up for the same situation."

In January, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found those who used nicotine vaping products to quit smoking cigarettes were twice as likely to be smoke-free a year later, compared to those who used other cessation devices, such as nicotine gum or patches.

In addition to Saturday's rally, the VTA has run anti-flavor-ban digital ads around Trump campaign events and television ads on Fox News, all in an effort to reach the president.

"I think [Trump] is reachable. I think that once they sit down and really think through this, they're going to realize a flavor ban is not the right way to go for public health, and certainly not the right way to go for the economy," says Tony Abboud, executive director of the VTA.

Only time will tell how successful vapers' activism will be in staving off the pending ban. Even if the administration were to put a freeze on a flavor ban, the requirement that all nicotine vaping products receive FDA approval—which can cost as much as $500,000—will still kill off much of the industry.

This morning, Trump announced via Twitter that he would be meeting with vaping industry representatives and public health officials.

At the very least, Saturday's rally demonstrated that there is a whole industry and a whole community who want the government to leave them alone, and who are willing to travel to the capital from across the country to say so.

NEXT: Biker Gang Leader's DIY Guns Are Part of a Predictable Prohibition Story

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  1. The problem is: who are they going to vote for? The anti vaping sentiment is widespread and bipartisan, see what th he Michigan governor is doing in banning flavors.

    1. Yes, and it’s too small a field for single-issue voters to matter much.

      But maybe enough protestors will encourage legal fights over the FDA’s rationalization of banning flavors.

      1. I certainly wouldn’t base my vote in this issue. That said, the federal government has no business getting involved in this issue at all.

        1. “The problem is: who are they going to vote for?”

          I think the point is that the election will probably be close, and that minority – joined by smokers and others who are serious about the government leaving us the fuck alone in all legal areas of life – could stay home instead of voting .. or vote Libertarian

  2. I wonder …. IANAV and have only followed the general story. Got the impression that Juul is the industry leader and that they caved remarkably fast, threw all their customers under the bus, by dropping all the popular flavors to try to hold off the government.

    Suppose the FDA comes to its senses (bear with me, this is for the sake of discussion) and doesn’t follow through on its proposed flavors ban. Would Juul customers come back? Would others with a little more spine leap into the void?

    1. Altria/PM owns a third of Juul, so what do they care? It would be in their interest for vapers to go back to Marlboros which have a much higher profit margin.

    2. Every major tobacco company owns a prominent voting stake in Juul. This isn’t tough to figure out. They’ve been through this game before.

  3. Wevrhat will the compromise be? Single out a few flavors as “irresponsible” because of their names or some such, and throw them under the bus?

    The tough nut is going to be the impending deadline. I think the best shot at stopping that is litigation aimed at Chevron and Auer, saying FDA either doesn’t get to decide which of these products are in their jurisdiction, or that they decided incorrectly in the case of some or all vaping products. Other than that, it’s probably going to take an act of Congress, inasmuch as if the president steps in and reverses a FDA final rule, then that intervention gets overturned in court the same as the Reagan administration’s attempt to relax the passive restraints in automobiles requirement was, as arbitrary and capricious. (I’m afraid the same might happen if DEA tries to put marijuana in a much less restrictive control schedule.)

  4. I read this, and other ‘stories’ today, and wonder how those who died for freedom would feel about it?

    Thanks to all who served and still serve what this country has become.

  5. “Several thousand activists gathered Saturday on the National Mall to voice their opposition to a federal ban on flavored nicotine vaping products.”

    While Reason has generally come out against banning, they have refuse to state or make a general principle against ALL banning of substances/things not related to a violation of rights.

    1. I’m glad to see the vapers making a stand. I’m guessing that Trump really doesn’t care one way or the other, knowing that they will still vote for him even if there is a flavor ban, over democrats who will no doubt ban all vaping products.

  6. my god, the peasantry gets dumber by the day

  7. Editor:
    Greg Conley is not the executive director of the United Vapers Alliance, but the president of the American Vaping Association.

  8. What’s stupider than making pot your number one political issue? Making vaping your number one political issue.

    1. bingo, that’s our peasantry now

      1. Freedom is the issue. Vaping or pot are merely two of the active areas of increasing/decreasing freedom. We need to push on all these issues but the fault lines are where the action is.

        1. nope, its just the addicted peasantry, champ

          1. Ok, so how is this different from any other group of people advocating for their rights? Just because nicotine addicts are a despised minority, should they not have a right to a product that is considerably safer? Alcohol is a much more destructive addiction, but is widely available to adults in a variety of flavors and types. The movers and shakers enjoy it though, so I guess its all good.

            1. Many people turned to the Libertarian party based on one simple thing – leave our fucking vices alone. If the Libertarian party wants to go anywhere, stop spending so much damn energy on open border shit and focus on our freedom to vape, smoke, drink and fuck

            2. nope, the State has just figured out how to control the peasantry with this stuff

    2. The commentariat here is pre-selected to be people who are considerably more agitated about politics than the average. I would be willing to wager a considerable sum that a substantial fraction, if not a majority of the people who showed up to that rally aren’t even regular voters. They’re just people who were living their lives until the government came along to shit on them.

      So, I think that reaching out to people in that situation with the libertarian olive branch (“hey, did you know the government is screwing you and other people over in a lot of other ways as well?”) might be more productive than writing them off as ill-informed peasants.

      1. It was an obvious acolyte of the rev. You can tell by the snobbery.

  9. As to be expected Michael Bloomberg, Dick Durbin [D] are right on top of the banning.

    Frustrating; that these kinds of “prohibition beliefs” still circulate at all in the Republican Party and continues to confirm the existence of hypocritical RINO’s galore within the party.

    Listen up RINO’S — You can’t champion Individual Freedom & Responsibility while simultaneously trying to dictate them into your own religious beliefs…. So STOP IT; You give the party a bad name.

    1. What planet are you from? I guess you’ve never lived in the south? Republicans are the ultimate busybodies around here. They’ve always been terrible. The worst.

      1. I found both teams to be bad on different issues. But I lived in Florida, which has a larger white democratic base than the rest of the south, so we get some of the transplants from NY/Mass.

      2. Nope. Never lived in the South so cannot relate. The good news is Southern RINO’S don’t seem to have a very good majority in the almighty Federal Government’s GOP platform. The major “busybodies” there is the DNC..

        Throw in the few RINO’S + the DNC and it becomes a real problem.

        In case you don’t know what a RINO is; It’s a Democrat who runs as a Republican just to win but retains true to the Democratic ideology (i.e. Republican In Name Only).

        I do know the Texas Governor [R] did some amazing things to thwart the Obama Administration from stuffing Communism down their throats. Which I’d consider “Southern”. Maybe you just live in a bad spot.

        Do these “busybody” Republicans compulsively believe that — You don’t own you, [WE] own you..

        1. The 2012 DNC convention theme WAS ‘government is the only thing we all belong to’.

          They believe they own is. Not surprising for a party that created the Klan to do their bidding.

          1. Democrats: Government IS their religion

    2. lets start with Responsibility first, then

  10. Another thing I noticed today. Some cities and a county in California are moving to outlaw natural gas appliances in homes.

    I have been using gas stove for years and we have 2 gas fireplaces. Wouldn’t think about anything else.

    1. The Democrats should be overthrown.

      1. I used to think there were still a few democrats left who aren’t complete retards, but now I am not so sure.

        1. I don’t see this country surviving with so many of them here. They’re that bad.

  11. when a party leader (President) is like issue and always bring more and more trouble i think its hard to say for sure who is right and wrong.. but if i think about democrats, it must be full of retards there.. sorry.. but just in my opinion at all..

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