MINNESOTA FLAVOR BAN WILL VAPORIZE HARM REDUCTION, WON’T IMPACT YOUTH TOBACCO AND E-CIGARETTE USE

February 20, 2020

KEY POINTS:

  • HF 3032 would ban the sale of “any tobacco, tobacco-related device, electronic nicotine delivery device … that imparts a taste or smell, other than the taste or smell of tobacco.

  • Banned flavors include, but are not limited to, “chocolate, cocoa, fruit, honey, menthol, mint, vanilla, wintergreen, or any candy, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb, or spice.” Under the bill, flavored cigars and cigarettes would be banned as well.

  • The sponsor of the legislation points to a so-called “public health epidemic of injury in addition to addiction,” as the reasoning for the ban, it is imperative that lawmakers understand recent vaping-related lung injuries have been overwhelmingly linked to the use of vapor products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a fact that The Heartland Institute first pointed out in August 2019.

  • As of December 30, 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has reported 141 confirmed or probable cases of vaping-associated lung illnesses, including three deaths.

    • The state’s first death was reported September 6, 2019, with the patient over the age of 65 years-old and had vaped “illicit THC products.

    • MDH reported the additional two deaths on October 16, 2019, noting both patients were over the age of 50 and one had vaped “illegal THC,” and the other was “believed to have vaped unknown products in addition to nicotine.

    • These illegal vaping products are rampant in the Gopher State. In September 2019, Minnesota police seized more than 75,000 illicit THC cartridges, worth an estimated $4 million. The suspect apparently sold the products using Snapchat.

  • According to the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, in 2019, 83.7 percent of 9th graders and 73.6 percent of 11th graders reported not using a vaping device in the 30 days prior to the survey

  • A ban on menthol cigarettes is unlikely to reduce youth combustible use. Analysts at the Reason Foundation examined youth tobacco rates and menthol cigarette sales. The authors of the 2020 report found that states “with more menthol cigarette consumption relative to all cigarettes have lower rates of child smoking.

  • According to the Vapor Technology Association, in 2018, the industry created 1,152 direct vaping-related jobs in Minnesota, which generated $44 million in wages alone.

    • Moreover, the industry has created hundreds of secondary jobs in the Gopher State, bringing the total economic impact in 2018 to $336,366,200.

    • In the same year, Minnesota received more than $20 million in state taxes attributable to the vaping industry.

  • In 2019, Minnesota received an estimated $703.6 million in tobacco settlement payments and taxes. In the same year, only $17.3 million in state funds, and 2 percent of what was received in tobacco monies, was dedicated to tobacco control. In 2018, in 2018, tobacco companies spent $110 million in marketing tobacco products in Minnesota, or over six times what the state spent on tobacco control programs.

Like many lawmakers throughout the country, legislators in Minnesota are seeking to reduce youth e-cigarette use by banning the sale of flavors in e-cigarettes and all tobacco products. HF 3032 would ban the sale of “any tobacco, tobacco-related device, electronic nicotine delivery device … that imparts a taste or smell, other than the taste or smell of tobacco.” Banned flavors include, but are not limited to, “chocolate, cocoa, fruit, honey, menthol, mint, vanilla, wintergreen, or any candy, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb, or spice.” Under the bill, flavored cigars and cigarettes would be banned as well.

Although the sponsor of the legislation points to a so-called “public health epidemic of injury in addition to addiction,” as the reasoning for the ban, it is imperative that lawmakers understand recent vaping-related lung injuries have been overwhelmingly linked to the use of vapor products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a fact that The Heartland Institute first pointed out in August 2019. Moreover, claims of a vaping epidemic among youth are overblown and exaggerated, and often, youth are not using e-cigarettes because of flavors.

In this Policy Tip Sheet, the Heartland Institute shows empty packaging of a popular THC vape brand on Amazon and eBay, as well as empty cartridges, which can be filled with any illicit substance. YouTube even offers videos on how to make THC oil that can be used in a vaping device. In December 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 56 percent of patients with a vaping-related lung injury who had used THC cited using the same illicit THC vape brand.

As of December 30, 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has reported 141 confirmed or probable cases of vaping-associated lung illnesses, including three deaths. The state’s first death was reported September 6, 2019, with the patient over the age of 65 years-old and had vaped “illicit THC products.” MDH reported the additional two deaths on October 16, 2019, noting both patients were over the age of 50 and one had vaped “illegal THC,” and the other was “believed to have vaped unknown products in addition to nicotine.” These illegal vaping products are rampant in the Gopher State. In September 2019, Minnesota police seized more than 75,000 illicit THC cartridges, worth an estimated $4 million. The suspect apparently sold the products using Snapchat.

 

Further, many Minnesota youth are not using vapor products. For example, according to the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, in 2019, 83.7 percent of 9th graders and 73.6 percent of 11th graders reported not using a vaping device in the 30 days prior to the survey. Further, 77.6 percent and 64.8 percent of 9th and 11th grade students, respectively, reported having never used an e-cigarette or vaping device. Indeed, only 3.8 percent of 9th graders, and 9.8 percent of 11th graders reported using e-cigarettes on at least 20 or more days in the 30 days prior to the survey.

Moreover, youth use of other tobacco products is at an all time low. For example, during the past 30 days, 96.9 and 94.7 percent of 9th and 11th grade students reported not using a combustible cigarette. Further, youth reported less use of other tobacco products including cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars, with 98.3 and 96.5 percent of 9th and 11th graders reporting not having used these types of tobacco products in the 30 days prior to the survey. Moreover, only 0.4 and 1.3 percent of 9th and 11th graders, respectively, reported using a menthol-flavored tobacco product all 30 days prior to the survey.

A ban on menthol cigarettes is unlikely to reduce youth combustible use. Analysts at the Reason Foundation examined youth tobacco rates and menthol cigarette sales. The authors of the 2020 report found that states “with more menthol cigarette consumption relative to all cigarettes have lower rates of child smoking.” Indeed, the only “predictive relationship” is between child and adult smoking rates, finding that “states with higher rates of adult use cause higher rates of youth use.”

Moreover, banning the sale of flavored vapor products would devastate a million-dollar industry in the Gopher State. According to the Vapor Technology Association, in 2018, the industry created 1,152 direct vaping-related jobs, including manufacturing, retail, and wholesale jobs in Minnesota, which generated $44 million in wages alone. Moreover, the industry has created hundreds of secondary jobs in the Gopher State, bringing the total economic impact in 2018 to $336,366,200. In the same year, Minnesota received more than $20 million in state taxes attributable to the vaping industry. These figures do not include sales in convenience stores, which sell vapor products including disposables and prefilled cartridges. In 2016, average sales of these products eclipsed $2.6 million in Minnesota.

It’s disingenuous that Minnesota lawmakers would ban tobacco products while dedicating very little of existing tobacco monies on tobacco control programs. For example, in 2019, Minnesota received an estimated $703.6 million in tobacco settlement payments and taxes. In the same year, only $17.3 million in state funds, and 2 percent of what was received in tobacco monies, was dedicated to tobacco control. CDC recommends the state dedicate $52.9 million per year, or 7 percent of what Minnesota receives in tobacco monies. To further underscore the lack of adequate tobacco control funding, in 2018, tobacco companies spent $110 million in marketing tobacco products in Minnesota, or over six times what the state spent on tobacco control programs.

Rather than imposing bans that will vaporize tobacco harm reduction, Minnesota lawmakers should invest more of existing tobacco monies into tobacco control programs, including education and prevention. Although there is not an epidemic of Minnesota youth using e-cigarettes, a larger share of existing monies should be allocated to programs that can eliminate youth use of both vapor and tobacco 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 or Tobacco Harm Reduction 101.

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©2020 by Tobacco Harm Reduction 101.