By Ashish Parikh
When Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland legislature took a firm stance against selling Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, or “ENDS,” to minors, I applauded their efforts to keep these products out of the hands of children. Minors should not vape, plain and simple.
However, vaping products are designed specifically as a healthier and safer alternative for adult smokers. Vapor provides a pathway away from cigarette addiction. These products were never intended to encourage teenagers to smoke and therefore should never be marketed towards children.
Unfortunately, regulators are also taking steps to limit access to these important smoking cessation tools for adults that need them. As an active member of the Asian-American business community in Maryland, I am deeply concerned that pending regulations will not only harm adult Marylanders attempting to quit smoking, but also cause potentially devastating effects on Maryland small businesses.
Recently, the Trump administration announced plans to restrict the sales of most flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores, a measure that baselessly attacks law-abiding business. In addition, there is state level legislation under consideration that would cripple access to vapor products for adults throughout Maryland.
The Maryland General Assembly also passed measures further restricting access to vaping products and the city of Baltimore is considering a ban on flavored e-liquid – a tool that many former smokers credit with helping them quit smoking.
The industry is in full support of denouncing the issue of teen vaping. It’s now illegal to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 21 in the state of Maryland and businesses that sell vaping products go to great lengths to adhere to the law. Just as identification is required to purchase tobacco products, purchasers of e-cigarette products must provide state-issued identification. Duplicating regulations that restrict adult access to these products do not bring us any closer to solving this problem.
Furthermore, sales of e-cigarette products play a vital role in the Maryland economy and enable retailers to employ more Marylanders. Reducing access to these products in stores would make them only available online, therefore hurting Maryland businesses, impacting the number of jobs available, and ultimately reducing the tax revenue brought in by our state. With regulations coming down on the industry at the federal, state and local level, we need to critically evaluate where the line is for safety and health and a knee-jerk regulatory reaction.
I urge the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland and the Trump administration to consider these facts before advancing additional unnecessary regulatory burdens on the industry. It’s not too late for our elected officials to change course and take a stand against these misguided proposals.
Ashish Parikh is chairman of the Asian American Retailers Association of Maryland.