On Tuesday, January 21st, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation banning flavored vapor products statewide.

In a media release delivered on the Governor’s official web site, Murphy said:

“As Governor, I am first and foremost charged with protecting the health and safety of our people. Research shows that flavored electronic smoking devices and products, such as mint, candy, fruit, and chocolate, are extremely appealing, especially to children. I commend my partners in the Legislature for reacting swiftly to the Task Force’s recommendations to pass legislation that will protect both youth and adults from the hazards of flavored electronic smoking device use.”

What may be troubling to many is Murphy’s admission that he is attempting not merely to “protect youth”, but to use his office to dictate the behavior of mature adults, as well. This could be seen as paternalism of the most intrusive and unwelcome sort.

According to New Jersey State Senator Richard Codey, a primary sponsor of the bill which enacted this ban:

“There is no doubt that the tobacco industry have used flavored vaping products as a means of enticing young people to use their products, making them prone to addiction and a lifetime of serious health risks. The flavors are a marketing ploy to get them hooked at a young age, when they are more susceptible and more vulnerable, physically and socially. We have been successful in bringing down smoking rates for cigarettes, but it took a concerted effort. We now have to do the same for flavored vaping products because the risk to young people is more immediate and just as severe.”

What Senator Codey may be unaware of is that “Big Tobacco” has two widely available entries into the vapor market in the United States: JUUL, in which Altria is a major stakeholder, and Vuse, manufactured and distributed by RJReynolds. Both are primarily distributed through all ages retail channels such as gas station/convenience stores and possibly some smaller pharmacy chains, although major chains such as CVS and Walgreen’s have already divested from the vapor products industry.

The rest of the vapor products market is produced and distributed by businesses which have nothing whatever to do with “Big Tobacco.”

Additionally, the policy broadly known as “Tobacco 21”, which bans any tobacco or vapor purchase for anyone under 21 years of age, recently became Federal law, rendering this flavor ban wholly unnecessary. All that is necessary now is enforcement of existing law in order to effect targeted elimination of underage vaping.

This leaves the real motivation behind this flavor ban nakedly obvious, despite its authors’ talking points: to deny adults access to a more appealing and less harmful alternative to combustible cigarettes.

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