Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine, recently published an analytical review of California’s ban on e-cigarette flavors. He believes that the ban could be fatal. By making e-cigarettes less attractive, it will prevent smokers from switching to the much less harmful nicotine habit. .
The following is the full text:
The Proposition 31 campaign is urging voters to protect children from candy-flavored tobacco, a ballot initiative that Californians overwhelmingly approved last week. That slogan contained impressive dishonesty in five words.
The main target of the initiative is nicotine-containing vaping products that do not contain tobacco and are already legally restricted to adults. Proposition 31 prohibits adults from buying such products in flavors other than tobacco, undermining the most promising reduced-harm alternative to cigarettes.
Proposition 31 is a referendum on SB 793, a 2020 law that limits characteristic flavors in tobacco products. California counterintuitively defines tobacco products as including electronic devices that deliver nicotine, whether or not the nicotine comes from tobacco.
According to SB 793, the taste or aroma of tobacco is the only characteristic flavor that can legally be added to vaping products. The rule aims to deter underage consumption by making such products less attractive to teenagers, while also discouraging smokers from switching to much less dangerous sources of nicotine.
California Governor Gavin Newsom asserted after signing SB 793: Big Tobacco has been targeting our children, trying to get our children addicted to tobacco products, effectively killing a generation.
The bill’s author, State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), declared that the industry wanted to keep killing people with candy, fruit, peppermint and peppermint-flavored poisons.
Contrary to these warnings, there is no evidence that nicotine vaping products are killing anyone. In fact, they are far less dangerous than cigarettes, which expose smokers to a myriad of toxic and carcinogenic combustion products.
Laboratory tests of e-cigarette ingredients, in vitro toxicology tests and short-term human studies suggest that e-cigarettes may be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes, according to a 2018 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The Royal College of Physicians also stated that vaping is not completely risk-free, but it is far less harmful than smoking.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged that e-cigarettes have the potential to reduce smoking-related deaths. “As a general category, e-cigarettes are significantly less risky than combustible cigarette products,” said Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
Still, the FDA appears determined to ban nicotine e-cigarettes in flavors other than tobacco, the same policy adopted by the state of California. Proponents of the policy point out that the vast majority of teens prefer the targeted flavors. But so do adults.
Three-quarters of adult e-cigarette users prefer flavors banned in California, according to survey data. A 2020 study of 383 adult e-cigarette users found that “preferences for tobacco and menthol or peppermint decreased over time,” while “preferences for fruit remained stable,” while “preferences for Chocolate/candy or other sweets” increased their preference.
A 2022 study asked 851 e-cigarette users how they would react if the government banned their favorite flavors. While 29% said they would switch to any flavors that are still allowed, 28% said they would find a way to get banned flavors, suggesting a California-style ban could drive consumers toward potentially dangerous flavors. Black market options; 17% said they would stop vaping and switch to smoking, which would expose them to potentially fatal risks; 13% said they were not sure what they would do.
A 2021 study provides further evidence that a policy just approved by California voters could easily undermine public health. The study found that “San Francisco’s ban on sales of flavored tobacco products was associated with higher odds of self-reported recent smoking among underage high school students, compared with trends in other school districts.”
Last year, 15 leading tobacco researchers warned in the American Journal of Public Health that restrictions on e-cigarette flavors could have adverse effects. “While flavor bans may reduce youth interest in vaping,” they wrote, “they may also reduce adult smokers’ use of vaping to quit smoking.”
Supporters of the California ban are so focused on portraying themselves as the just protectors of children that they don’t even realize the danger, and the results can be deadly.
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