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Don't Kid Yourself, Banning Flavored Juul Pods Is All About Money

Image via Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

The U.S. government has nearly 13 billion reasons to see e-cigarettes die a quick death. Juul, with its 75% market share, has been the one company in their crosshairs due to the rapid increase in vaping among teenagers and more recently, the outbreak in illnesses and deaths associated with vaping.

According to a survey funded by the National Institutes of Health, the number of teens who vape nicotine hit a record high last year. The percentage of 12th graders who said they've vaped in the previous twelve months increased from 27.8% in 2017 to 37.3% in 2018. When asked if they've vaped in the previous 30 days, the percentage nearly doubled from 11% in 2017 to 20.9% in 2018.

The CDC has so far reported 33 deaths and 1,479 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette and vaping products. The CDC says "Most patients report a history of using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products. Therefore, CDC recommends that you should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC." To cover their bases, the CDC also "continues to recommend that people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain nicotine."

The problem is Juul is being specifically targeted amid the outbreak despite the evidence so far pointing to THC-containing vapes as the culprit. The outbreak has quickly led the Trump Administration towards banning flavored e-cigarettes. So why is there so much attention drawn towards Juul when the products they sell may not be causing the deaths and illnesses?

As is the usually the case, the answer is money. With cigarette use among U.S. adults at the lowest level ever, the government is losing billions in tobacco tax revenue. The decline in tobacco tax revenue likely won't be reversed, either. A large reason many have given up cigarettes is because they've switched to e-cigarettes, which are thought to be a safer alternative. Whether they are is debatable. Of course sales of Juul and other e-cigarettes provide states with tax revenue, but it likely doesn’t make up for the lost tobacco tax revenue.

Yesterday, Juul finally caved to the pressure. The company announced it would immediately suspend sales of fruity e-cigarette flavors in anticipation of a Trump administration policy that would take them off the market. Juul's spokesman said "We continue to review our policies and practices in advance of FDA’s flavor guidance and have not made any final decisions."

Of course the rise in teens vaping nicotine is worrisome, but teens have smoked cigarettes for as long as they've been around. Furthermore, the CDC also recommends that people refrain from smoking cigarettes, but the government hasn't drafted laws to remove cigarettes from store shelves.

There's one telling statistic that illustrates deaths are not what the government is most concerned about. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S. In comparison, the number of deaths from the recent vaping outbreak is about 0.005% of the total deaths per year caused by cigarette smoking.

Leftover Crumbs

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