A Maryland state senator was part of the crowd that shared their thoughts about youth vaping with President Trump at the White House on Friday.
Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick) was invited by the White House to provide a state legislator’s perspective. Others in attendance included Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Trump Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway, and U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
In recent weeks, the White House has sent mixed signals on support for a ban on flavored vaping products. Friday’s meeting grew tense at times, with vaping industry advocates and public health advocates openly sparring.
NBC News reported Trump expressed concern that a ban on flavored vaping products could lead children to seek out options on the black market.
“If you don’t give it to ‘em, it’s going to come here illegally,” the president said, adding that instead of companies selling a regulated product, “they’re going to be selling stuff on a street corner that could be horrible. That’s the one problem I can’t seem to forget.”
The president has expressed support for raising the age for vaping products to 21.
Hough, in a news release, said he told Trump that he is opposed to raising the age to 21 because of his experience in the military. If 18-year-olds are old enough to go to war, they should be able to decide whether or not to vape, Hough said. He rallied the Maryland Senate last year to include an exemption for military members on the state’s new law limiting all sales of tobacco products to those over 21.
Hough released his full written remarks after the meeting.
“I come at this issue with a unique personal perspective. When I was 18, I volunteered and joined the United States Air Force. I took an aptitude test and they assigned me to be a Minuteman III maintenance technician. This meant when I was under the age of 21, I had a top-secret clearance and often was supervising a person younger than me in the transport, movement and maintenance of thermo nuclear weapons,” Hough wrote.
“I have always been offended by laws that say 18 years olds are mature enough to drive tanks, fly helicopters, go into combat and in my case work on nuclear weapons, but not mature enough to buy a pack of cigarettes, have a cigar, use chewing tobacco or vape,” he wrote.
Hough also said states should be left to decide tobacco laws on their own, without a nationwide law.
“As state lawmakers we decide, for example, the age when people can be married, divorced, purchase rifles and shotguns, sign legal contracts. There is no reason we can’t make this decision and we don’t need a one size fits all federal bill forced upon us. And we do not need to criminalize adults who at the age of 18 can fight and die for our nation, but would be barred from the choice of whether to use tobacco or vaping products.”
Lawmakers in the General Assembly have already been drafting bills to ban the sale of flavored vaping products during the 2020 session.
When not in Annapolis, Hough works on Capitol Hill as chief of staff for Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.).