Thursday, November 21, 2019

House Lawmakers Decide Not to Tackle Respiratory Disease Outbreak: They Decide to Let More Kids Get Sick in Order to Protect a $2.5 Billion Illegal Industry

With more than 2,000 cases of severe respiratory failure--mostly among youth and young adults--and 42 deaths resulting from vaping-associated respiratory illness, one might expect that the House Energy and Commerce Committee would have done something to help curtail this outbreak when it voted yesterday on legislation to address the youth vaping crisis.

While this week's newspaper headlines provided some information about the Committee's actions on the proposed youth vaping legislation--for example, that the bill, which bans e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco, passed by a 28-24 vote--those headlines only tell part of the story.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that the very members of the Committee who purported to be acting in the best interests of the health of the nation's youth blocked an effort to help curtail the terrible respiratory disease outbreak that currently represents the most acute and serious threat to the health of our nation's youth. And they did so in a way that protects a $2.5 billion illegal industry that is ravaging the health of our youth.

According to an article by Politico: "A Republican-backed amendment to make marijuana vapes subject to FDA regulation failed after Pallone urged a vote against the provision, saying it's not the focus of the legislation."

Not the focus of the legislation? You've got to be kidding me!

Youth are literally dying or getting life-threatening illnesses requiring mechanical ventilation (and in one case, a double lung transplant) due to the widespread use of black market, flavored marijuana vapes and the Committee chair urged a vote against regulating these products so that the outbreak can be brought under control?

The Committee chair urged a vote against banning marijuana vapes that come in flavors like Birthday Cake, Black Berry, Blue Dream, Blueberry, Bubble Gum, Candy Land, Cherry Pie, Cotton Candy, and Fruity Pebbles?

By failing to address the epidemic of marijuana vaping that is afflicting our nation's youth and resulting in severe disease and in some cases, death, the members of the Committee who voted against regulating marijuana vapes have done a huge disservice to the public's health and an equally huge favor to a $2.5 billion illegal industry.

In fact, the most recent estimates from BDS Analytics reveal that illegal (black market) THC vapor sales represent fully one half of all marijuana sales in the nation. We're talking about a $2.5 billion industry that is completely unregulated and completely responsible for the respiratory disease outbreak that we are currently experiencing. And the Committee voted to let this illegal industry off the hook and instead go after the legal, regulated vape shops that have helped literally millions of Americans to quit smoking by switching completely to flavored vaping products.

Don't be fooled by the rhetoric. This bill is not about protecting the health of youth. If that was the primary concern, the bill's supporters would have supported the amendment to pull from the market the products that are actually causing the respiratory disease outbreak.

Moreover, it would have pulled from the market not only fake cigarettes, but the real ones as well. There is simply no public health justification for banning almost all e-cigarettes, but leaving Marlboros -- the #1 cause of preventable death in this country -- on the shelves. If the House Energy and Commerce committee truly wanted to protect the health of our nation's youth, they would get rid of the real cigarettes, not just the fake ones.

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