On Monday, President Trump said he is planning to meet with officials in the vaping industry to “come up with an acceptable solution to the Vaping and E-cigarette dilemma.” This comes after signaling last Friday that his administration was planning to significantly restrict vaping products. These possible restrictions ranged from not allowing people to buy vapes until they are 21 to outright banning all flavored vapes.
Considering so much of the rhetoric surrounding this vaping “epidemic” has been related to young people, I think the fact that I am a high school student gives me a valuable perspective. I do not vape; I never have and do not plan on it in the future.
With that said, I also think the Trump administration is going in the completely wrong direction on this issue. As I see it, there are a few central reasons why the Trump administration’s nanny-state anti-vaping agenda is both nonsensical and counterproductive.
First, the way President Trump seems to be making his stance more palatable to the masses is by saying that the reason he must restrict people’s ability to vape is that it is important to “protect the kids.” There are two fallacies in this argument.
First, he is ignoring that the damage vaping has done is minuscule in the big picture. Since the beginning of the vaping “epidemic,” 33 people have died. That is obviously far too many, but to say that we should severely restrict vaping for this reason but not tobacco or alcohol, which kill 8.5 million people each year worldwide, is insane.
Not to mention that many states are not only in the process of legalizing marijuana but also decriminalizing harder drugs. This is not to say that we should criminalize any of these substances, but it is to say that it does not make sense why President Trump sees vaping as a unique evil that deserves to be disproportionately regulated while his administration is not instead focusing on much bigger problems.
The second issue with his “protect the kids” defense is that President Trump fails to acknowledge the real reason people have been dying from vaping. The reason is not that they are using legally bought vapes, but because they are ingesting chemicals that are only in vapes found on the black market. NBC News says, “There’s now solid evidence that vitamin E oil found in bootleg THC vape products is behind at least some of the 2,000-plus severe vaping-related lung injuries nationwide.”
The keyword there is “bootleg.” If President Trump truly wants to prevent young people from falling ill as a result of vaping, then he would be working to ensure people are buying legally. He would not be pushing them into the black market, where they will be more likely to get vapes laced with vitamin E acetate. Raising the age to buy vapes to 21 pushes everybody under that age to buy the very vapes that pose the most serious health risks.
The second main reason the restrictions being pushed by the Trump administration are misguided is that to enact the sorts of restrictions they are pursuing would ignore basic conservative principles. Government has no place in regulating the behavior of legal adults as long as that behavior is not infringing on the rights of anybody else.
To say that an 18-year-old—somebody who is a legal adult in the United States—is not permitted to use a product that may have adverse health risks simply because the government says so is absurd. One of the central tenets of freedom is the idea that each person should be free to make whatever decisions he pleases as long as it does not harm anybody else. Instead, the Trump administration seems to believe that it is their duty to protect people from themselves. Yet the job of the government is to protect me from other people, not to protect me from my own poor decision making.
There is no doubt that too many young people are using vapes, but to say that any of the regulations I discussed above are the be-all-end-all solution would be to have a misinformed view of the real issue. If we really want to curb the use of vapes among young people, then I would look to solutions that do not include government compulsion under the thin veil of just wanting to “protect the children.”