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February 3, 2020


Oregon lawmakers recently introduced two bills that would severely limit adult access to tobacco harm reduction options by banning the sales of flavored electronic cigarettes. Senate Bills 1559 and 1557 would both ban the sales of vaping products that have “been manufactured to impart a characterizing flavor.”

Like many misguided lawmakers throughout the country, Oregon legislators are responding to a so-called youth vaping epidemic. Although reducing youth e-cigarette use is laudable, policymakers should refrain from prohibitionist policies that haphazardly restrict adult access to tobacco harm reduction products.

Despite recent fearmongering, e-cigarettes and vapor products are significantly less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Numerous public health organizations, including Public Health England (PHE), Royal College of Physicians, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, American Cancer Society, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—have acknowledged there is a reduced harm associated with e-cigarettes and vaping devices, compared to traditional tobacco products. PHE even found the use of e-cigarettes to be an estimated “95% safer than smoking.”

Further, a 2019 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine noted that e-cigarettes and vaping devices are “twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy at helping smokers quit.” As of late 2018, an estimated three million American adults had quit smoking combustible cigarettes with the aid of vapor products.


Flavors are essential in helping smokers transition to tobacco harm reduction products, as well as maintaining their cessation from combustible cigarettes. In 2015, an online survey of more than 27,000 American adult vapers found that 72 percent of respondents “credit[ed] interesting flavors with helping them quit.” A 2018 survey of nearly 70,000 American adult vapers “found flavors play a vital role in the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.” Further, 83.2 percent and 72.3 percent of survey respondents reported vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively, “at least some of the time.”

Lawmakers should also be aware that recent data indicate youth are not using e-cigarettes as often as claimed, and are not using such products because of flavors. For example, a January 2019 study in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, analyzed the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The study’s authors found that 0.4 percent of American high school students reported vaping “regularly,” on at least 20 or more days in the 30 days prior to the survey.

These findings are similar for Oregon youth. For example, in 2019, only 4.4 percent of Oregon 11th graders reported daily e-cigarette use. Notably, 78.6 percent reported not using a vapor product in the 30 days prior to the survey.

The Heartland Institute recently analyzed several statewide youth vaping surveys to understand the role of flavors in youth e-cigarette use. In an analysis of five states, only 15.6 percent of high school students cited using e-cigarettes because of flavors. Overwhelmingly, youth are using vapor products because a friend and/or family member had used them.

Lawmakers should also refrain from prohibitionist policies in order to examine the effects of the federal flavor ban. On January 2, 2020, FDA issued final guidance that bans the sales of “flavored, cartridge-based [e-cigarette] products,” beginning February 6, 2020. The ban will stay in effect until the manufacturers are issued an approved premarket tobacco product application (PMTA). Other provisions include increased enforcement and penalties to companies marketing vapor products to individuals under age 21. Further, in May 2020, all e-cigarette manufacturers will be required to submit a PMTA in order to still market their products. FDA hopes that the new guidance will help reduce youth e-cigarette use, as young Americans are primarily using “certain flavored, cartridge-based” vapor products.

Lawmakers should also note that a flavor ban will wipe out the vapor industry in the Beaver State. According to the Vapor Technology Association, in 2018, the industry created 963 direct vaping-related jobs in Oregon, which generated $28 million in wages alone. The total economic impact to Oregon was more than $215 million in 2018, including $9 million in state taxes. It is disingenuous that lawmakers would restrict access to tobacco harm reduction products while allocating so little in funding to help smokers quit. For example, in 2019, Oregon received an estimated $338.8 million in tobacco taxes and settlement payments, yet in the same year only dedicated $10 million, or 2 percent, on funding tobacco control programs, including education and prevention.

Oregon lawmakers should refrain from prohibitionist policies that restrict adult access to tobacco harm reduction products. Overwhelmingly, evidence is indicating that youth are using e-cigarettes for reasons other than flavors and their use is not as rampant as the leftist media decries. The vapor industry provided more than $215 million in economic impact to Oregon in 2018, and a flavor ban would greatly reduce the health benefits of e-cigarettes as well as the hundreds of jobs the industry provides for residents of the Beaver State.

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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