Democrats More at Risk for Anti-E-Cigarette Stance

Millions of adult vapers across the country could determine the outcome of the election in battleground states.

According to Gallup, about 8 percent of U.S. adults, around 17 million people, reported vaping regularly in 2019. This constituency is demographically and politically diverse but, polling indicates, active and motivated by this single issue.

Over 96 percent of vapers polled said they were likely to vote in the general election, with more than 85 percent definitely voting, according to a survey conducted in October 2019 by McLaughlin & Associates. Moreover, 60 percent of vapers polled said that government attempts to ban the sale and use of nicotine vapor products would cause them to register as new voters. Since bans have been sweeping across the country in recent years, with some lawmakers using the COVID-19 pandemic to halt sales, we can expect a lot more vaper-voters in 2020.

When asked how they might vote in the upcoming election, over 82 percent of vapers in battleground states indicated that they would be less likely to vote for candidates who had voiced support for increasing restrictions on nicotine vapor products. Seventy-three percent said they would be “much less likely” to vote for such candidates. Based on the margins in battleground states in the previous election, this group of voters could prove to be the deciding factor in 2020. 

Herein lies a problem for both Republicans and Democrats. Neither of the two major parties could be described as having championed adults’ right to choose nicotine vapor, yet it has been almost exclusively Republican lawmakers who have opposed attempts to ban, restrict, and malign these lower-risk alternatives to cigarettes. So perhaps vaper voters will perceive Republicans as less of a threat on an issue about which they deeply care.

Democrats, in contrast with their vocal defense of cannabis users, have either been complicit or activity participated in the relentless, moralistic campaign against nicotine vapor waged by their colleagues. While there may be some Democratic lawmakers who recognize the scientific evidence about the safety of e-cigarettes and the right of adults to access these potentially life-saving products, their failure to push back against their colleagues may haunt them in November. In fact, given the razor-thin margins they lost by in battleground states during the previous election, this could prove to be a critical error for Democrats in November.

In September 2019, President Donald Trump decided to wade in the issue of vaping, announcing his intent to ban flavored nicotine vapor products. The announcement triggered a backlash from the millions of American adults who rely on flavored e-cigarettes to stay smoke-free and revealed “vapers” as a powerful yet hitherto unrecognized constituency. Wisely, the Trump administration backed away from the ill-considered ban, reverting to the status quo of ignoring vapers and the topic of vaping.

Donald Trump won key states in 2016 with what amounts to a handful of votes. Pennsylvania was decided by just around 44,000 votes, Wisconsin by little over 27,000, and fewer than 11,000 votes decided the outcome in Michigan. These and other swing-states are in play again and, by all accounts, likely to be just as close this year. And in each of these states there are hundreds of thousands of adults who use nicotine vapor products. In fact, according to 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 475,000, 192,000, and 380,000 adult vapers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, respectively. They matter.

At least, this constituency should matter to politicians regardless of their political party. Vapers may have bigger priorities when they choose which presidential candidate to vote for. But, for the many millions who quit smoking with vaping when nothing else worked, their families and friends who care about their health, and everyone whose livelihood depends on the independent vapor industry, the vaping issue may prove a deciding factor. It will be hard for vapers to forget lawmakers who actively sought to strip away freedom of choice.