Arizonans have chance to ban illegal vape products | Opinion

The frustration of Arizonans knows no bounds — just like Joe Biden’s approach to border policy. Over the last three years, the feds’ inability to stop unauthorized people, products and drugs from illegally crossing our borders has drastically increased.

How bad is it? Even the “successes” illustrate failure — and peril — for Arizona. For example, nearly 90% of the fentanyl intercepted at American borders last year was seized at Arizona ports of entry. But that dangerous drug isn’t the only illegal substance that the Biden administration is failing to keep from our children.

Illegal disposable flavored vapes made in China have become vastly popular among middle and high school-aged students. Since Biden’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed to get these illegal flavored Chinese vaping products off store shelves in our state, Arizona legislators are ready to step in with a solution.

Sen. T. J. Shope (R-District 16) has introduced SB 1212, which would create a common-sense directory of vapor products that can be legally sold in the United States. This directory, which all 50 states already possess for cigarettes, would guide state agencies in their efforts to flush illegal Chinese disposable vapes from the market.

The most-popular vape by far is Elf Bar, a Chinese-made product with flavors like strawberry-passion fruit and pineapple orange mint. Nearly 57% of teen vapers say this brand is their favorite.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently found an increase of 25% in incidents involving e-cigarettes reported to poison centers in the U.S., and nearly two-thirds (63.3%) of these cases involved children under the age of 5. The Elf Bar brand is related to three-fifths of all exposure cases.

It is estimated that illegal Chinese vapes make up about half of the U.S. e-cigarette market, and these products are not FDA approved or regulated. That means Americans are consuming untested and dangerous products. Our children do not know how they are made or what is in them.

Shockingly, an Elf Bar spokesperson recently stated that “all the Elf Bar-branded products you see in the U.S. are counterfeit.” If true, that means the most-popular illegal disposable vape product used by America’s youth is counterfeit.

China’s decision to seize on a regulatory loophole and inundate the U.S. market with flavored disposable vapes is not without purpose. Despite being able to manufacture and export these products, Chinese manufacturers are prohibited from selling flavored vapes to their own citizens.

The FDA has endeavored to clamp down on Chinese manufacturing of illegal disposable vapes by issuing warning letters to the companies that make them. But the firms circumvent these warnings by simply changing the names of their products.

Further investigations uncovered that Chinese manufacturers frequently mislabel their shipments as battery chargers, flashlights and other small consumer goods.

Just as troubling is the fact that out-of-state advocates are pushing to keep illegal products like Elf Bar on Arizona store shelves, indirectly lobbying on behalf of unscrupulous Chinese manufacturers.

If the FDA is content to keep issuing toothless warning letters, it is clearly time for something more. While SB 1212 will not eliminate the threat of illegal Chinese disposable vapes, it gives our state the power to take this problem into its own hands.

In the meantime, these small, colorful vaping devices have become the most popular disposable e-cigarette in the world and, as the Associated Press has reported, it is the “overwhelming favorite of underage U.S. teens who vape.”

This has become a massive business. One distributor, Diamond Vape, told a federal judge that their company sold $132 million of Elf Bars alone. With so much money on the line, opposition to SB 1212 has been fierce, primarily coming (surprise, surprise) from those selling these illegal, disposable vapes.

While those well-heeled opponents have been successful thus far in delaying SB 1212’s passage, the Legislature can still take action before its current session adjourns.

Now is the time for concerned citizens and parents to commend Shope for introducing the bill and to contact their own legislators to express their strong support.

If enough Arizona families channel their frustration into articulation and advocacy for SB 1212, something President Ronald Reagan advocated — “If you let them feel the heat, then they’ll see the light” — would take place among elected officials gathered on West Washington Street and provide clarity that would displace the current haze of vapor.

J.D. Hayworth represented Arizona in the U.S. House from 1995-2007. He authored and sponsored the Enforcement First Act, legislation that would have mandated enforcement of federal immigration law in the…

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