Editorial: The RIght vaping ban

Posted 9/26/19

In two consecutive days, two New England governors signed executive orders to ban the sale of vaping products in their respective jurisdictions. First, Massachusetts banned all vaping products. The …

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Editorial: The RIght vaping ban

Posted

In two consecutive days, two New England governors signed executive orders to ban the sale of vaping products in their respective jurisdictions. First, Massachusetts banned all vaping products. The next day, Rhode Island banned all flavored vaping products.

The difference is enormous.

Well-intentioned as it is, the Massachusetts ban will immediately shutter businesses, send workers into unemployment and leave thousands of addicted or semi-addicted “smokers” with only one alternative — cigarettes — which is worse than vaping, a product proven to cause cancer, the culprit in more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

So while Massachusetts cleans all shelves in the Commonwealth of every form of e-cigarette, triggering outrage in many of its residents and putting a dent in the state’s economy, Rhode Island has taken sharper aim at the most insidious part of this industry: the marketing of flavored nicotine products to children.

As she announced her executive order Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Gina Raimondo held up two packages of e-cigarettes. One was “Strawberry Milk,” the other “Mango Bliss.”

These are targeted at kids,” she said. “They look fun and flavorful and healthy, and it’s the exact opposite. These are dangerous for kids, and they’re getting hooked on nicotine products at 10, 11, 12, 13 years old.”

She later said, “15 percent of middle school kids are addicted to this stuff, and it’s rising … I have to put the health and safety of our children first.”

Her executive order will do exactly that, removing these cute, colorful and temptingly packaged products from Rhode Island stores, making it 100 times more difficult for any of this community’s teens to get their hands on them. It should have already been difficult, but as a sting operation proved last week in Bristol, too many businesses were willing to look the other way and make a quick buck selling them to children.

At the same time, Gov. Raimondo’s executive order extends a lifeline to the businesses that continue to sell the legal, menthol-flavored products that were the first real alternative to cigarettes for a generation of former tobacco smokers. (It may also preserve some jobs, and tax revenue, in a state that could use more of both.)

For acting decisively and protecting their children, Rhode Island parents should applaud the governor’s bold stance. She responded to a public health crisis with a balance of both courage and sensitivity.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.