FLORIDA LEGISLATION DEFINES E-CIGARETTES AS TOBACCO PRODUCTS, WOULD RESTRICT ACCESS

March 25, 2019

KEY POINTS:

Florida lawmakers have proposed legislation that would define electronic cigarettes as tobacco devices and restrict retail sales of flavored e-cigarettes to establishments that prohibit minors from the premises.

Senate Bill 1046 would broaden Florida’s definition of “tobacco products” to include e-cigarettes as well as other recreational nicotine products, such as smokeless tobacco and hookahs. The bill would also ban retail sales of tobacco products that have a flavor “other than tobacco, menthol, or mint” to age-restricted stores. House Bill 1125 is a companion bill to SB 1046. It includes an amendment that removes the retail flavor ban provision.

A vaping device is a tobacco harm reduction product medical experts have verified is thoroughly safer than tobacco cigarettes. Lawmakers should refrain from categorizing them in the same manner as combustible cigarettes. These products have helped millions of smokers quit and can benefit state budgets by reducing smoking-related health care costs. Moreover, the vaping industry has provided major gains to state and local economies, and it will likely continue to do so, as the market is expected to grow in the coming years.

Legislators should understand a large part of the appeal and success of electronic cigarettes among adult smokers is the inclusion of flavors. Restricting access to this aspect of tobacco harm reduction will likely lead to many adults continuing to smoke tobacco cigarettes and/or return to other traditional tobacco products.

Public Health England (PHE) declared in 2015 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.”  The agency is also responsible for the “Stoptober” campaign, urging smokers to quit tobacco cigarettes and promotes the use of e-cigarettes as “a great way to fight cravings – they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.”

Other organizations such as the Royal College of Physicians, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the American Cancer Society have also acknowledged the reduced harm of e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

Lawmakers should note e-cigarettes can save Medicaid billions of dollars by reducing health care costs caused by smoking. Because Medicaid recipients smoke at rates “more than double for adults with private insurance,” the program is unduly impacted by smoking-related health care costs, estimated around “$39.6 billion annually, or 15.2 percent of Medicaid expenditures nationwide.”

One study analyzing all Medicaid recipients switching from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes estimates savings would have amounted to $48 billion 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.

Besides the reduced harm, a major appeal to American adults is the variety of flavors offered by vaping devices. A 2016 Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association survey of 37,343 U.S. adult 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 found flavors played an important role, with 83.2 percent and 72.3 percent of respondents vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively, “at least some of the time.”

Although lawmakers demonize flavors because they appeal to some young people, the industry does not market to children. In fact, the Vapor Technology Association, a trade association representing vaping “manufacturers, wholesalers, small business owners and entrepreneurs” requires members to “refrain from knowingly marketing Vapor Products to Minors, which is strictly prohibited.”  Members “have implemented strict standards to prevent youth access to vapor products.”

Rather than imposing onerous regulations, lawmakers should follow other public health groups and promote the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

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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