This week in the Ohio Senate, the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony from the American Lung Association and American Heart Association and the vaping/tobacco lobbies on the cigarette/vaping tax that is being debated in the Finance Committee. The lobbies do not like the cigarette/vaping tax as it will cost their consumers more money while the public health groups on this issue are presenting that an increased tax will mean less smokers and help replenish the nearly depleted tobacco cessation fund.
The tobacco/vaping lobby argued that there has been no scientific evidence that vaping produces any negative health impacts and even argued that vaping will keep consumers away from the more dangerous cigarettes. This was a big change – these lobbies taking it from a public health stance. The American Lung Association and American Heart Association both stated that the FDA considered vaping products as tobacco products and should be considered as such.
The one piece that was striking, however, was that there was question from a Senator on the committee, asking if there was any science supporting that vapor products are as dangerous as tobacco. I found this striking because there is very little research on either side. The little research that there is seems to point to potential health dangers. Why was the question not asked of the tobacco industry, “What research has there been to show that these products are not dangerous?” It’s very interesting that public health is doubted, but a lobby that has lied to the public for a century is given a pass.
We can tie this to marijuana, as well, in the fact that legalization has happened in some states, yet the science of showing the health impacts is still in early stages. The early science we have does not look good in regards to community harms and mental health and physical health impacts, but we have to prove it. Perhaps we can be better as a society if we wait for these studies to be done before legalizing anything.
In our roles, we seem to be playing catch-up, being asked to answer the questions of health impacts while lobbies that prey upon the young, those communities with lower incomes and those susceptible to substance use disorders are not asked those same questions.
Perhaps one of our biggest opportunities would be to turn the question of health and safety to our legislators and ask what research they have to protect the health and safety of communities. It should be asked to change the narrative of this conversation.
If you wondered, the budget was not passed and there is no sign of whether the tax will stay in or be taken out. Those are decisions that have yet to be made by our Senate leaders.
Drug Free Action Alliance