God sent electronic-cigarette users a savior on November 8th: Donald Trump.
Starting in 2010, the e-cig business began to take off, growing an average 114 percent annually for the next five years. Here in Manhattan, many bodegas transformed from small shops offering ten different kinds of Doritos to full-blown vaporizer boutiques offering 30 flavors of vape juice and a variety of vaping accesories.
But in May 2016, President and noted combustion smoker Barack Obama’s Food and Drug Administration unleashed a barrage of regulations on the rapidly growing e-cig industry. The regulations essentially make it too expensive to be in the e-cig business for anyone other than Big Tobacco. That’s because despite the fact that the liquid used in e-cigs contains little to no tobacco, the FDA nonetheless classified the devices and juices as “tobacco products.” Under the new regulations, which began taking effect in August of last year, any manufacturer of e-cigs or juices must “undertake a package of research” if the e-cig models or liquids weren’t on the market before 2007. This research can cost over a staggering $3 million per product, according to Dr. Christopher Russell, a senior research fellow at the Center for Substance Use Research.
That’s poised to change under President Trump. His campaign platform of slashing burdensome regulations and cultivating a friendlier business climate presents a major opportunity for vaping enthusiasts. While Trump hasn’t mentioned the FDA’s regulations specifically in any of his speeches, that isn’t stopping e-cig crusaders from making sure America has its first cloud-chasing president.
Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist is best known for his Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which challenges members of Congress to promise not to raise income or business taxes during their time in office. He’s now taken on the role of a vaping folk hero.
Norquist is in early talks with Trump administration officials to make sure the FDA’s rules are delayed at least two years so Congress has time to pass bills nullifying the Obama-era regulations. Trump’s nomination of Georgia Congressman Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services was an early sign that the vaping community has an ally in the White House and might finally find some relief after years of continued assault.
“There’s close to a 100 percent chance that the [FDA’s] rules are delayed,” Norquist said. “I have complete confidence in Price and Trump’s worldview.”
He also thinks the issue presents a real opportunity for Republicans to expand their party. “You run into more people with tattoos than you’d see [at a normal Republican Party rally]. It’s a different group of people. I’ve talked to people who’ve said ‘I’m a Democrat, but until we fix [the issues surrounding e-cigarettes], I’m a Republican.”
Traveling around the country, Norquist see these puffers as members of a burgeoning political movement.
“Vaping is a real coalition. I’ve seen it at the state and local level,” Norquist told me over the phone. “Unlike tobacco, beer, or wine, where people don’t feel comfortable saying ‘Don’t tax it,’ [people who vape] feel virtuous about their life choices,” and aren’t afraid to fight back, Norquist said.
In the past year, Norquist has seen the power of the vaping community. He mentioned a number of state and national races that he was convinced were partially decided by the candidate’s position on e-cig taxes and regulations. The man has a point: Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson explicitly thanked the vaping community for their support in his race and promised to be an advocate for them in Washington.
Norquist wants to continue focusing on state and local elections. Similarly to the chaotic town halls Republicans are facing over their proposed changes to Obamacare, or the massive Tea Party protests in 2010, Norquist wants to see vape users at every town hall expressing concern over potential tax hikes or bans by liberal politicians.
Just this week, Norquist identified a future battleground:
“Nevada just elected a Democrat house and Senate in the state. and now? VAPING TAXES OF COURSE,” He tweeted Wednesday night.
A mere temporary bump in the road. At the end of our call, Norquist almost sounded Trumpian in his enthusiasm and confidence for the future.
“We’re gonna win and we’re gonna build a political coalition so strong that when we win, they can’t ever take it away.”