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April 3, 2017

The State of New Jersey is considering a ban on the use of “characterizing” flavors in the liquid used for electronic cigarettes. The resolution would amend 2008 legislation that prohibited the sale of cigarettes having “a characterizing flavor other than tobacco, clove or menthol” and would extend the same flavoring restrictions to e-cigarettes and vaping devices, including e-cigarette liquid refills.


Advocates of the proposal say it will help reduce smoking rates for minors by banning “flavors that are particularly attractive to children,” yet legislation is already in place that enforces those restrictions. New Jersey already forbids persons under the age of 19 from the sale or possession of “any electronic smoking device that can be used to deliver nicotine or other substances,” and advocacy groups support such bans. The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) provides “Age to Vape” signage to vape shops endorsing such laws, “to show that [the] industry supports sensible age restrictions.” Cynthia Cabrera, the former SFATA president and current executive director, noted in 2015, “more than 1,300 companies” participated in the group’s Age to Vape program.


Consumers for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is another advocacy group that “supports laws that prohibit underaged sales and urges strict enforcement of laws” banning youth access to e-cigarettes.


Flavored nicotine is important for electronic cigarettes to remain a tobacco harm reduction tool. A 2016 CASSA survey of 27,343 e-cigarette users found 72 percent of respondents “credited tasty flavors with helping them give up tobacco.” A 2013 internet study by the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center concluded flavorings in e-cigarettes “appear to contribute to both perceived pleasure and the effort to reduce cigarette consumption or quit smoking.”


Should former smokers be forced to use only the flavors that simulate traditional tobacco cigarettes, some may return to cigarettes.


In a December 2015 Policy Study from the R Street Institute, Dr. Edward Anselm, R Street Institute senior fellow and medical director of Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey, concluded the presence of flavorings in electronic cigarettes greatly helps smokers quit using traditional tobacco cigarettes. Anselm also says concerns over “flavoring as a tool to recruit children are overblown,” and he rightly points out there are no specific “kids flavors” for e-cigarettes. There is no “evidence that suggests children are drawn to tobacco products specifically because of flavor,” Anselm said.


Electronic cigarettes have been proven to be an effective tobacco harm reduction product. Mimicking the sensations of tobacco cigarettes, a 2015 report by Public Health England (PHE) found e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. PHE also concluded e-cigarettes “could help reduce smoking related disease, death and health inequalities.”

The use of electronic cigarettes could also provide a positive impact for states’ budgets. J. Scott Moody, chief executive officer and chief economist at State Budget Solutions, concluded based on evidence from a “study on the impact of cigarette smoking on Medicaid spending” that “the potential savings of e-cig adoption, and the resulting tobacco smoking cessation and harm reduction, could have been up to $48 billion [in 2012].”


Elected officials should better understand the role electronic cigarettes and their positive effects could play in the battle to improve public health. Lawmakers should not use or rely on exaggerated claims regarding potential harm to young people when crafting regulations for e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute.

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