Will Vapers Really Decide the Next President?

Blog: Will Vapers Really Decide the Next President?

If so, who’s the vaping candidate?

Published in Tobacco E-News


Melissa Vonder Haar, Tobacco Editor, CSP
Duncan Hunter

Duncan Hunter, the viral vaping congressman from California.

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. — Last week was filled with all kinds of vaping viral moments, from a vaping congressman to the announcement that vaporizers would be included in this year’s Academy Awards gift bag. But perhaps most notable—at least for this tobacco writer—was Grover Norquist’s bold claim that vapers will play a vital role in the upcoming presidential election.

“I think that the next election, at the presidential level, and a lot of other levels, is going to be determined by the vaping community,” the founder of Americans for Tax Reform said while attending a two-day lobbying event held by Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA). “Lifestyle issues win because of the power of the political support behind them.”

I have to admit, I was initially skeptical. Sure vapers are passionate—but do they really have the numbers to sway a national election?

Norquist cited a 10 million (and growing) base of vapers. Which actually could represent the difference between victory and defeat: Wikipedia informs me that in 2008, President Obama won the popular vote by 9,550,193 votes; that number dropped to 4,998,296 votes in 2012.

Obviously there’s a lot more at play here: the Electoral College, not the popular vote, actually determines the presidential race and there’s no way to determine how many of those 10 million vapers are “fresh” voters (as in they wouldn’t be voting for a certain candidate regardless of their stance on vaping). I fully acknowledge that.

But still, it’s pretty impressive that the vaping community could feasibly make a difference come November.

Which brings me to my second question: Who’s the “vaping candidate”?

SFATA executive director Cynthia Cabrera seemed to indicate the Republican candidate—whomever it may be—is the clear choice. She told the Washington Examiner that vapers are so politically engaged because of Democratic threats to tax, regulate and maybe even ban the vaping segment.

“This is a viable alternative that needs to be promoted,” she said, citing the irony that Democrats support marijuana use and sales but frown on tobacco-free vaping.

Now I’m admittedly a liberal New Yorker, but I’m not sure I agree. To date, vaping has not been brought up at any of the Republican or Democratic debates; perhaps one (or more) of the candidates has an official position on vaping, but if so, I haven’t been able to find it via Google.

Yes, Republicans have historically been more on the “side” of tobacco companies when it comes to regulations—but that’s hardly a steadfast rule (hello Michael Bloomberg, who is the one clear “anti-vaping candidate” should he decide to enter the race).

As I go through the still insanely large list of candidates on both sides, I’m not sure there’s much evidence one way or another. I’m sure I could make a case, but I fear it would be based on my own feelings about any particular candidate. That is unless Duncan Hunter, that viral vaping congressman from California, throws his hat into the ring.

Ultimately, I fear Norquist is kind of right and kind of wrong: The vaping community could sway a presidential election, but they need a truly pro-vaping candidate to get behind. Which probably won’t happen in this election cycle. Although if any of the candidates are reading this article, in which case, please reach out, I’d love to hear your thoughts on vaping!

Melissa Vonder Haar, author of the Smokes & Mirrors blog, is senior editor/tobacco coordinator of CSP magazine. Contact her at mvonderhaar@winsightmedia.com.


#1 Kev on 02.23.16 at 3:48 AM

Really you think this is a viable measurement?

#2 Gary on 03.01.16 at 2:08 AM

That is highly unlikely since there is way too much hot air.

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