As the state’s tobacco regulator, it is my professional and ethical obligation to do everything possible to keep both cigarettes and e-cigarettes out of the hands of children. In that spirit, I announced earlier this month that Maryland would be the first state in the nation to ban the retail sale of flavored, disposable vaping devices. These products — which are marketed with names such as Strawberry Hard Candy, Pineapple Lemonade and O.M.G. — are manufactured primarily, if not exclusively, to attract underage consumers and provide them with a gateway to a lifetime of nicotine addiction. At a time when public health advocates and families are disturbed by the rapid escalation in adolescent vaping, I am proud of our national leadership on this public health crisis.
Given the urgent need for action on this health crisis, your readers are understandably wondering why The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board would attack our decision to act in the public interest, and our motives for doing so (“Disposable, flavored e-cigarettes ought to be banned by lawmakers, not comptroller’s office,” Feb. 11). In using this, of all issues, to perpetuate this newspaper’s longstanding political opposition to me, The Sun handed a priceless public relations victory to the national tobacco lobby.
The Sun’s intent was not to raise legitimate critiques of our regulatory action. As evidenced by the bizarre references in the editorial to unrelated issues such as our past advocacy of a post-Labor Day public school calendar, this had everything to do with indulging longstanding grudges and attempting to ensure that its preferred Annapolis politicians get the lion’s share of credit for banning these products.
A health crisis of this magnitude requires action now. Our regulatory action is meant to complement any laws passed by the General Assembly. This has nothing to do with getting the headlines. It has everything to do with protecting public safety and keeping illegal, untested and unsafe products out of the hands of children.
Regular readers of The Sun have grown accustomed to a predictable flow of editorials attacking my character and dismissing the work of my award-winning agency. I readily concede that they come with the territory. However, I would respectfully suggest that, in the midst of a vaping boom that has led to a 900% increase in the use of vaping products by adolescents in just five years, this isn’t the time to nurse ancient political grudges. I find it disgraceful that, instead of using its formidable platform to educate concerned Marylanders of a meaningful solution to this public health crisis, The Sun’s editorial board chose to play politics and do, literally, the dirty work of Big Tobacco.
Peter Franchot, Annapolis
The writer is state comptroller of Maryland.
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