Christmas was a month ago, but the Indiana General Assembly is trying to hand a big gift to Big Tobacco.
Senate Bill 227 would ban most vape products sold in the state and wipe out small businesses, while also preventing Hoosiers who are trying to quit smoking from accessing a healthier alternative. Meanwhile, it would direct consumers to the products of a few major brands, if not back to smoking cigarettes entirely.
The bill will require the state to maintain a vapor product registry, and limit the vaping products that can legally be sold in the state to the 23 products authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, which are sold by three large Big Tobacco companies – Logic, NJoy and R.J. Reynolds. That number of products is actually smaller, since many of those authorized are simply refills.
In doing so, it will direct most of the vaping business to large brands sold in convenience stores and kill off the standalone vape shops in Indiana, which paid more than $147 million in wages directly and in related jobs, according to the Vapor Technology Association.
“This is another instance of the state government inserting itself into individual choices and harming both people and the small-business entrepreneurs who serve them, while protecting big business. In this case, it’s Big Tobacco and convenience stores,” Libertarian Party of Indiana chairperson Evan McMahon said. “This will kill off small vape shops in the state and lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs.”
This is another case of government protecting large retailers and large businesses and paying off Big Tobacco and the convenience stores that sell their products, while simultaneously using the heavy hand of the state to kill off small Hoosier entrepreneurs.
The FDA has yet to approve a non-tobacco-flavored open system e-liquid, which are frequently sold in small vape shops, and thus the requirement for a registry and the ban of any other unregistered products would essentially put them out of business.
This will be framed by the state as a health issue. E-cigarette manufacturer Juul recently paid the state a $15.7 million settlement for marketing to teens, which will be used as fodder for restrictions on vaping to “protect the kids.” But CDC data show that e-cigarette usage has dropped among high school students from 27.5% in 2019 to 10.0% in 2023. Meanwhile, adult vape usage is rising, as more than 426,000 Hoosier adults use e-cigarettes. While that may seem alarming to policymakers, many adults who use liquid vape products do so to replace smoking, which is significantly more harmful to one’s health.
But the teens who vape are shifting more toward disposable vape products sold by Big Tobacco than other forms sold by smaller retailers, according to CDC data. And by shifting the sales to convenience stores, it will make age-restricted vape products easier for teens to access, according to FDA compliance checks.
“The small businesses SB 227 is trying to put out of business have done more to save the lives of smokers than anyone else. Nothing has been as effective at getting smokers to quit than providing them with a safer alternative,” McMahon said. “This bill will drive them right back into the arms of Big Tobacco and drive many back to smoking. A bill that is couched as a ‘health bill’ will actually lead to worse health outcomes.”
If enacted, Senate Bill 227 will be harmful to Hoosiers and harmful to the small businesses who serve them. It needs to be killed off before it kills more of us.