Will a victory for Joe Biden in Tuesday’s US presidential election spell tougher times for the US e-cigarette industry? The short and obvious is: probably. But of course it’s more complicated than that.
For one thing, while the Democratic party tends to be less friendly towards vaping than the Republicans – and, in particular, suspicious of big industry in general and Big Tobacco in particular – Joe Biden has always liked to position himself as the great conciliator between the parties, the Republicans’ Democrat. He is also a long-time enthusiast for big business.
For another, more probably hangs on whether the Democrats can overturn the current 53/47 Republican majority in the Senate.
Biden’s business-friendliness may not ultimately count for much if his words during the Democratic primaries are to be taken seriously. He told supporters in Iowa: “If the science has demonstrated it is doing great damage then I don’t care what it does to a small business person who’s selling this stuff. If it is damaging lungs, if it’s causing the kind of damage that is said – and that study’s not been fully done yet – if it turns out that it is, then I would eliminate it. I would go after it in a hard way.”
That is a lot of “ifs”. And the message was undoubtedly tailored to what Biden thought an audience of Democratic party members wanted to hear. If Biden has demonstrated one political skill above others in a long career, it’s probably that of telling people what they want to hear.
If the Democrats do succeed in taking control of the Senate – and there’s no guarantee of that, even if Biden wins the presidency by a landslide – then Biden could find himself under pressure to please both houses of Congress.
In that case, we could expect the kind of restrictions on vaping that have been popular in Democrat states to become federal policy.
Most notably, the House of Representatives would be sure to try again with something very like the bill to ban flavours in tobacco and vapour products which it passed in February but which failed to get past a Republican Senate. With a Democrat-held Senate, such a move would be almost certain to make it into law.
Of course, despite all the poll predictions, Donald Trump may yet retain the presidency, in which case all above bets are off. Equally – perhaps more likely – voters who turn against Trump may not wish to hand all the reins to the Democrats, leaving the Senate in Republican hands. In which case the bets become harder to call. With 35 of the 100 Senate seats up for the vote, it could come down to electors in just seven swing states.
Photo: Gage Skidmore