Net Neutrality repeal: Should vaping (and Big Tobacco) be worried?
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal the 2015 Obama Era restrictions on Internet providers, otherwise known as net neutrality regulations. The decision opens the door for broadband companies to institute sweeping changes in how the American People can access website content.
Internet conglomerates like Comcast, AT&T, and Charter Communications can now also legally discriminate and manipulate the throttling of data speeds for individual websites or even an entire business sector. The new rules pose a significant threat to the vaping movement which relies heavily on the Internet for education, research, and advocacy efforts.
Net Neutrality: Vaping is not alone
Wired Magazine describes the net neutrality repeal as “the difference between a free and open online experience, and one where corporations dictate what you can see, and how fast you can see it.” And in the runup to Thursday’s FCC vote, the public outcry was overwhelming. Critics claim that the decision will negatively affect nearly every aspect of American online life.
National Public Radio (NPR) states that repealing net neutrality could negatively affect educational efforts via the Internet for school children of all ages. Wired believes that new startups will experience new unforeseen obstacles, and The Hill warns that rural America may witness the most severe impacts of all. While advocates of the net neutrality repeal claim that unhappy customers can simply switch to a competing broadband company, this is often not an option for residents of smaller towns with only a single Internet provider.
Where will the proverbial ax fall first?
If Big Brother now has the power to regulate what the American People see on the Internet, many IT experts, global economists, and political pundits are now openly wondering which industries will be the first victims. Meanwhile, Internet companies are promoting the notion that We The People have nothing to worry about. For example, Comcast has stated on many occasions that it will “not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”
What does “lawful” mean?
It is this term “lawful” that is very concerning for industries that are often under attack by the Puritanical Elite, industries including marijuana, tobacco, and by extension, vaping. Is the advertising of cigarettes “lawful?” How about vaping or medical marijuana?
Even before the repeal of net neutrality, these industries are very highly restricted in their abilities to advertise online. For instance, the FCC does not consider the promotion of the sales of cigarettes products on television to be “lawful.” Many vapers might also be unaware that privately-owned social media sites like Facebook do not currently allow vape shops and other predetermined, industry-specific retailers to purchase advertisements on their platforms.
If Internet advertising for Big Tobacco is prohibited, vaping will likely follow.
According to the FDA deeming regulations, electronic vaping devices are classified as Big Tobacco products. Therefore, one can likely assume that if the Internet providers suddenly decide to abolish tobacco advertising online just like the FCC currently prohibits on television, then the vaping industry will like-it-or-not be automatically and legally drawn into this ban as well.
The vaping community may now have a new battle to fight in the War on Vaping - the battle over net neutrality rights. And its threat may be even more potentially catastrophic than the notorious FDA deeming regulations still looming on the horizon.