DEFINING E-CIGARETTES AS TOBACCO PRODUCTS AND RESTRICTING ACCESS WOULD THREATEN HARM REDUCTION IN OHIO

May 16, 2019

KEY POINTS:

  • House Bill 133 would revise Ohio code and define “electronic smoking device[s]” as any device delivering “aerosolized or vaporized nicotine,” and includes “any component, part, or accessory of such a device.

  • Although Tobacco-21 (T-21) legislation is relatively new, an analysis conducted by The Heartland Institute found youth use of vaping products increased in numerous state and localities after T-21 laws were implemented.

  • Hawaii was the first state to increase the age to purchase tobacco products in 2016.

    • Data from the 2015 and 2017 Hawaii Youth Tobacco Surveys found vaping among middle schoolers increased 77 percent from 2015 to 2017.

    • E-cigarette use among Hawaiian high school students also increased, by 38 percent, over the same period.

  • Localities in Massachusetts began passing T-21 legislation in 2013.

    • County-level data of localities with T-21 laws found increased e-cigarette use among youth, with a 37 percent increase among 10th graders from 2016 to 2018.

    • Despite this, the Bay State passed a statewide T-21 law in 2018.

  • E-cigarettes are a safe alternative to combustible cigarettes that numerous public health groups find to be significantly less harmful, including Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the American Cancer Society.

  • Studies estimate e-cigarettes can reduce health care costs. One study found that if all Medicaid recipients that smoked switched to e-cigarettes, savings to Medicaid would have amount to $48 billion in 2012.

  • Ohio spends very little in tobacco moneys on programs to help smokers quit. In 2018 Ohio “received $1.332 billion in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.” Of this, only $12.5 million, or less than 1 percent, was dedicated to tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Language in Ohio’s 2020-2021 operating budget would classify e-cigarettes and vaping devices as tobacco products and increase the age to purchase all so-called tobacco products from 18 to 21. House Bill 133 would revise Ohio code and define “electronic smoking device[s]” as any device delivering “aerosolized or vaporized nicotine,” and includes “any component, part, or accessory of such a device.”

Unfortunately, Ohio legislators are kowtowing to a fearmongering campaign that youth vaping is a public health crisis of epic proportion. Although youth tobacco use has increased, there is little evidence raising the age to purchase e-cigarettes and vaping devices would actually reduce youth tobacco use. Moreover, the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products ignores the public health gains these tobacco harm reduction products provide to millions of adult smokers.

Although Tobacco-21 (T-21) legislation is relatively new, an analysis conducted by The Heartland Institute found youth use of vaping products increased in numerous state and localities after T-21 laws were implemented.

For example, Hawaii was the first state to increase the age to purchase tobacco products in 2016. Data from the 2015 and 2017 Hawaii Youth Tobacco Surveys found vaping among middle schoolers increased 77 percent from 2015 to 2017. E-cigarette use among Hawaiian high school students also increased, by 38 percent, over the same period.

Localities in Massachusetts began passing T-21 legislation in 2013. County-level data of localities with T-21 laws found increased e-cigarette use among youth, with a 37 percent increase among 10th graders from 2016 to 2018. Despite this, the Bay State passed a statewide T-21 law in 2018.

Aside from the T-21 issue, another disconcerting aspect of the Ohio proposal is the reclassification of e-cigarettes and vaping devices as tobacco products. E-cigarettes are tobacco harm reduction tools. Moreover, they have helped an estimated three million American adults quit smoking combustible cigarettes.

Numerous public health organizations find their use to be significantly less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England (PHE) found the use of e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than smoking. In 2018, after reexamining the evidence, PHE “reiterated its claim that “vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.”

Other public health organizations noting the reduced harm of e-cigarettes include the Royal College of Physicians, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the American Cancer Society.

In a strange case of irony, this proposal is included in the Ohio budget, despite the fact that the use of e-cigarettes reduces state expenditures. One study estimates annual savings would have amounted to $48 billion if all Medicaid recipients switched from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes in 2012. Another study of a smaller percentage of the same population switching found Medicaid savings would be “approximately $2.8 billion per 1 percent of enrollees” over the next 25 years.

 

Even worse, Ohio spends very little in tobacco moneys on programs to help smokers quit. In 2018 Ohio “received $1.332 billion in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.” Of this, only $12.5 million, or less than 1 percent, was dedicated to tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Moreover, as a new technology, e-cigarettes have provided positive gains to state and local economies. One analysis found vape shops “generate annual non-online sales of more than $300,000 per store.” The industry is expected to grow substantially in the near future, with one market analysis finding the e-cigarette market “is estimated to reach $44,610.6 million by 2023.”

Rather than restricting access to e-cigarettes and vaping devices—as well as misdefining them as tobacco products—lawmakers should embrace this potentially life-saving technology. Aside from the fact that bans and age restrictions do not work, these products have helped millions of smokers quit and provide economic gains.

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 or Tobacco Harm Reduction 101.

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