For at least one group in the US, the election results spurred more crossed-fingers than wrung hands: vaping advocates are hopeful Trump could soften regulations that threaten the industry.
Vaping advocates have been scrambling to find a solution after the Food and Drug Administration announced strict regulations on the industry this year. Many in the industry claim the regulations could threaten thousands of businesses, but legislative efforts to tweak the rules haven’t gained much traction. Now that Donald Trump has won the election, though, there’s renewed optimism that things could change.
“From a public health perspective, there are many reasons to be concerned about the outcome of Tuesday’s election,” wrote Dr. Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher at Boston University who runs a fact-checking blog on public agency statements about vaping. “[However,] with a Trump presidency, and with Republican control of the Senate, we ironically have a tremendous opportunity to once and for all craft a sensible regulatory strategy for electronic cigarettes and vaping products.”
Though we still don’t know the long-term effects of vaping, research so far has found it to be much less harmful than smoking, and there’s some evidence that it could be a useful smoking cessation tool.
Throughout the election, vaping advocates were pushing candidates to state a position on the issue of vaping regulation. Many of the FDA’s regulations are common sense and supported by the industry, such as not selling vapes to minors. But they also require vape businesses to clear some significant regulatory hurdles, which would mean hours of paperwork and hundreds of thousands of dollars—something many vape manufacturers and shops say would put them out of business.
To try to counter the threat of stiff regulations, a handful of pro-vaping politicians supported an amendment to the budget that would tweak the FDA rules, reducing the number of regulatory hoops that vape businesses would need to jump through. Vaping advocates had kind of thought this amendment was their only hope, according to Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit advocacy group. But when Trump won and the GOP took control of congress—including two pro-vaping congressmen who won re-election—suddenly the industry began considering more opportunities to enact change.
“Based off of the information being reported on what he plans on doing with the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s going to be, seemingly, an anti-regulatory administration,” Conley said. “So that gives us some hope.”
Conley said one option would be for congress to vote to strike down the FDA’s vaping regulations, under the Congressional Review Act. Another option would be to introduce entirely new legislation that would regulate vaping products completely separately from tobacco products, as the FDA has them now.
But since President-elect Trump has never directly addressed vaping regulations, it’s impossible to say exactly what will happen. Conley said with vaping’s two biggest political champions—Senator Ron Johnson and Representative Duncan Hunter—rallying the troops, he’s optimistic congress and the Trump administration will get on board. Hunter, he noted, was one of the first Republicans to endorse Trump.
“Conventional wisdom holds that President-elect Trump is going to have more time for Congressman Hunter than he would for the average two or three term congressman,” Conley said.