FLAVOR BANS WOULD SNUFF OUT VAPING IN NEW YORK

February 26, 2019

KEY POINTS:

  • Senate Bill 428 would ban the sale of “characterizing flavors,” including, but not limited to, “fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, [and] herb or spice flavoring.” The legislation does not include tobacco or menthol flavors.

  • Data from the “2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey and the “2018 Monitoring the Future Survey” found an increase in the number of youth who say they vape more than one time per month, but this is a misleading figure because it doesn’t make clear whether a person had, for example, vaped twice and then never vaped again or vaped multiple times per day each day of the month.

  • There is no real data to suggest youths who use e-cigarettes will transition to combustible tobacco cigarettes. A January 2019 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found no evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking among youth, according to Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.

  • Of the estimated 10 million adult vapers in the United States, nearly three million are former tobacco smokers.

  • A 2019 study found e-cigarettes are “twice as effective as nicotine replacement at helping smokers quit.”

  • Flavors are an important reason why electronic cigarettes have been so successful in helping people quit using tobacco.

Overeager legislators in the Empire State have introduced legislation prohibiting the sale of flavored e-liquids used in electronic cigarettes. Senate Bill 428 would ban the sale of “characterizing flavors,” including, but not limited to, “fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, [and] herb or spice flavoring.” The legislation does not include tobacco or menthol flavors.

The legislation has been introduced to curb the use of e-cigarettes among youth, which the author has previously referred to as a “gateway drug” that leads teens to combustible tobacco cigarettes. Like other legislation introduced in California, New Mexico, and New Jersey, it has also been introduced in response to federal public health officials’ false campaigns depicting a youth vaping epidemic.

While surveys indicate youth vaping in 2018 was higher than 2017, much of the data on youth e-cigarette use is inconclusive and relies on faulty information. For example, the “2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey” and the “2018 Monitoring the Future Survey” found an increase in the number of youth who say they vape more than one time per month, but this is a misleading figure because it doesn’t make clear whether a person had, for example, vaped twice and then never vaped again or vaped multiple times per day each day of the month.

Moreover, there is no real data to suggest youths who use e-cigarettes will transition to combustible tobacco cigarettes. A January 2019 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute “found no evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking among youth,” according to Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Siegel examined the study, finding that the authors “were unable to report a single youth out of the 12,000 in the same who was a cigarette naïve, regular vaper at baseline who progressed to become a smoker at follow-up.”

Siegel also found that while “ever use of e-cigarettes increased the risk of smoking initiation, recent use of e-cigarettes (within the past 30 days) did not increase the risk of smoking.” It is important for lawmakers to understand that this finding is significant, as “the most definitive study to date of the [youth] issue fails to provide any evidence to support that” youth e-cigarette use leads to combustible tobacco cigarette use.

Further, in their attempt to protect youth, legislators are threatening to limit access to tobacco harm reduction products that have helped millions of adult Americans quit smoking. Of the estimated 10 million adult vapers in the United States, nearly three million are former tobacco smokers. This isn’t surprising considering that research shows e-cigarettes are a more effective tool for cessation than traditional nicotine replacement therapy. A 2019 study found e-cigarettes are “twice as effective as nicotine replacement at helping smokers quit.”

Flavors, many of which would be banned by the proposed legislation, are an important reason why electronic cigarettes have been so successful in helping people quit using tobacco. A 2016 Consumers for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) survey of 37,343 e-cigarette users found 72 percent of respondents “credited tasty flavors with helping them give up tobacco.” A 2018 survey of nearly 70,000 American adult vapers produced similar results. Nearly 95 percent of the survey’s respondents reported “that they were ever smokers,” and many cited using flavors at the point of e-cigarette initiation.

There is considerable concern that should former smokers be forced to use only the flavors that stimulate traditional tobacco cigarettes, they will return to tobacco cigarettes.

It’s also important to note that the e-cigarette industry has a strong history of supporting efforts to restrict youth access to their products. The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Associations provides “Age to Vape” signage to vape shops endorsing local laws. CASAA supports age restrictions and “urges strict enforcement of laws.” The Vapor Technology Association, which represents vaping manufacturers, requires members to “refrain from knowingly marketing Vapor Products to Minors, which is strictly prohibited.”

Banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes would essentially vaporize tobacco harm reduction in New York State. As a product that is 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes, e-cigarettes could alleviate state budgets through reduced health care costs and they are an economic boon, providing local economies with new business opportunities. Lawmakers should promote their use as a tobacco harm reduction product and refrain from enacting overreaching regulations and prohibition.

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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