EMALINE JONES: Free the vape

Conservatives are closing the gap with voters under 35 — a demo the left has long dominated — but they are making unforced errors in ensuring this progress holds to the election.

While young people are fuming at Democrats over a variety of issues: broken promises on energy policy, foreign policy, and fiscal policy, Republicans are needlessly faulting on easy, popular issues— notably, vaping.

A Harvard/IOP poll published this week showed Biden leading Trump by 13 points among Gen Z voters, from 24 points in 2020, representing a double-digit shift to the right.

A report published in the Hill in February showed Democrats’ lead with young-adult voters collapsing in numerous polls.

President Biden is leading former President Trump by only 4 points in a recent Axios-Generation Lab survey, after a New York Times/Siena poll in December found Trump actually leading Biden among the same demographic by 6 points.

An NBC poll a month earlier also had Trump leading Biden in the same cohort by 4 points.

This is the same group that went for Biden by upward of 20 points in the 2020 election— an ominous sign for Democrats, but a historic opportunity for Republicans, if they can get out of their own way.

As these numbers are coming out, the flashiest Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is set to sign a bill in Florida effectively banning vapes. Why?

Ostensibly, the bill aims to curb products attractive to “children,” by going after flavored vapes, and only allowing products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be sold. Sounds fair enough, until actually learning about the issue.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) took a survey that found vape flavors are not among the top five reasons teens who vape say they turned to the product. More, data actually shows that youth vaping rates have gone down 50% from 2019-2021, to levels from before the Juul fad.

And as for the vaunted FDA— The FDA’s stated goal is to get Americans off their addiction to traditional tobacco products, but according to a study released in October, vaping products have saved 113,000, and reduced the number of smokers in America by 6.1 million. However, 99% of premarket tobacco applications for vapes have been denied by the agency.

So why would a law like this pass? Look no further than Big Tobacco, which sounds vintage, but has as significant a presence in politics than ever.

Florida Politics astutely noted in a report on this legislation, “…there’s the rub: Of some 26 million products submitted for FDA approval, only 23 owned by RJ Reynolds, Japan Tobacco International and Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, have received clearance.”

Altria has made no secret of its giddiness over legislation like this.

Last month, Bloomberg published a story titled, “Altria Is Backing US States’ Moves to Crack Down on Illegal Vapes.”

“US states are finding an unusual supporter in tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. as they crack down on disposable fruit-flavored vapes,” Bloomberg writes. Not very “unusual,” more like “convenient!”

The buried lede: “Getting rid of illegal products would help Altria. Aside from benefiting from more cigarette sales, it could sell more tobacco-flavored NJOY vapes,” Bloomberg writes.

So, basically, the bills apparently geared toward health and safety get the stamp of approval from a company that will make more money off people not quitting smoking because of lack of alternatives, or, they will make money because their smoking alternatives are virtually the only ones approved by a bought-and-paid-for FDA.

Almost like these bills serve more of a political purpose than one of health and safety.

And all the while, a traditionally hostile group of under 35’s are warming up to voting for conservatives— Republicans are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Conservatives have a rare opportunity to make inroads with groups they haven’t had a chance at winning in decades. Making life more difficult for young voters, and taking away their agency and access to relatively harmless products they enjoy are small moves that leave a big impact on voters’ impressions of the conservative movement. Not to mention, these actions play to the exact corrupt bureaucratic and large special interest tyrants that conservatives so resent, and push back on at every other opportunity.

This election season, Republicans need to look toward governing by their values and winning elections— and that means ditching their political and misinformed crusade against nicotine.

Image: Title: desantis vape
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