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Research & Commentary: Illinois Flavor Ban Would Vaporize Harm Reduction

September 10, 2019

Recent proposal would ban flavors, not including menthol and tobacco, from all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.

Illinois lawmakers recently introduced legislation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

H.B. 3883, also known as the Flavored Tobacco Product Ban Act, would prohibit the sale and distribution “of any flavored tobacco product.” Banned flavors include, but are not limited to, “tastes or aromas relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice.” Menthol and tobacco flavors are not included in the ban. Further, tobacco cessation products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are not included in the ban.

Many localities and states have considered banning flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, as a way to combat youth use of vaping devices. Although these policies are meant to do good, they are ineffective measures to curb youth e-cigarette use. Further, such bans restrict adult access to tobacco harm reduction products. Even worse, these policies are likely to lead current adult e-cigarette users back to combustible cigarettes. In other words, they do more harm than good.

The Heartland Institute analyzed results from the 2017-18 California Youth Tobacco Survey (CYTS) and found that despite flavor restrictions in some localities, youth use of e-cigarettes in those areas had increased after the bans went into place.

Santa Clara County, California, banned flavored tobacco product sales to age-restricted stores in 2014. Despite this, youth e-cigarette use increased while the ban was in effect. For example, in the 2015-16 CYTS, 7.5 percent of Santa Clara high school students reported current use of e-cigarettes. In the 2017-18 CYTS, this increased to 10.7 percent.

Further, flavors are practically essential in e-cigarettes and vaping devices. A 2013 internet study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health noted that flavors in electronic cigarettes “appear to contribute to both perceived pleasure and the effort to reduce cigarette consumption or quit smoking.” A 2015 study by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association surveyed more than 27,000 American adults. Seventy-two percent of respondents “credited tasty flavors with helping them give up tobacco.”

A 2018 survey, conducted by researchers at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, Greece, and Centre for Substance Use Research, Scotland, UK, surveyed nearly 70,000 American adults and found that 83.2 percent and 72.3 percent of survey respondents reported vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively. Only 20 percent of respondents reported using tobacco flavors at the point of e-cigarette initiation.

Further, it is highly likely that banning flavored e-cigarette products could prompt former smokers to return to tobacco cigarettes. A 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded banning flavors “would result in the increased choice of combustible cigarettes.” Indeed, the authors expect e-cigarette use to decrease by approximately 10 percent if flavors are banned.

Despite recent media fearmongering, e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes, as first noted by Public Health England (PHE) in 2015. In 2018, PHE reiterated this claim, stating “vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.”

Other public health groups including the Royal College of Physicians, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have noted the reduced harm of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Further, ACS attributes the reduced harm of e-cigarettes to the fact that these devices “do not contain or burn tobacco.”

Instead of enacting a flavor ban that would undoubtedly harm adults, lawmakers should divert existing tobacco moneys on programs and prevention efforts. Of the $1.1 billion Illinois received in tobacco settlement payment and taxes in 2019, the state extended only $9.1 million, or 0.008 percent, to tobacco education and prevention programs.

Flavors are essential for helping smokers quit combustible cigarettes and utilize electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. Although addressing youth e-cigarette use is laudable, existing bans have not been effective in curbing youth use of e-cigarettes. Moreover, such bans threaten tobacco harm reduction options for adults. Rather than restricting adult access to products that are significantly less harmful than combustible cigarettes, policymakers should invest more of their existing moneys from tobacco settlement payments and taxes on education and prevention programs.

The following articles provide more information on e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction here.

Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: A Guidebook for Policymakers
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/latest-heartland-policy-booklet-addresses-vaping-myths
This booklet from The Heartland Institute aims to inform key stakeholders on the much-needed information on the benefits of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. Tobacco Harm Reduction 101details the history of e-cigarettes, including regulatory actions on these products. The booklet also explains the role of nicotine, addresses tax policy and debunks many of the myths associated with e-cigarettes, including assertions about “popcorn lung,” formaldehyde, and the so-called youth vaping epidemic.

Research & Commentary: Flavor Bans Do Not Reduce Youth E-Cigarette Use
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research--commentary-flavor-bans-do-not-reduce-youth-e-cigarette-use
In this Research & Commentary, State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines the California Youth Tobacco Survey results from 2017-18, finding youth vaping has increased in several California localities that have restricted access to flavored tobacco product. Stroud finds youth vaping has increased in both Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. Stroud also notes that banning flavored e-cigarettes is likely to reduce the number of adult smokers switching from combustible cigarettes to tobacco harm reduction devices, and could lead former smokers back to cigarettes.

Research & Commentary: Largest Vaping Survey Finds Flavors Play Important Role in Tobacco Harm Reduction
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research--commentary-largest-vaping-survey-finds-flavors-play-important-role-in-tobacco-harm-reduction
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines a survey of nearly 70,000 adult vapers in the United States. The survey was completed in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on the role of flavors in tobacco products. The authors found nearly 95 percent of survey respondents were at one time smokers and the majority reported using flavors at the point of e-cigarette initiation. Stroud compares this to other surveys. She concludes, “eliminating flavors will force [vapers] to vape only tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, which would likely cause them to return to combustible cigarettes.” Stroud also found research has found e-cigarettes are a key tobacco harm reduction product and could help alleviate state budgets by mitigating health care costs.

Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Public Policy Toward Alternatives to Smoking
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/vaping-e-cigarettes-and-public-policy-toward-alternatives-to-smoking
For decades, lawmakers and regulators have used taxes, bans, and burdensome regulations as part of their attempt to reduce the negative health effects of smoking. Recently, some have sought to extend those policies to electronic cigarettes. This booklet from The Heartland Institute urges policymakers to re-think that tax-and-regulate strategy. Policymakers should be mindful of the extensive research that supports tobacco harm reduction and understand bans, excessive regulations, and high taxes on e-cigarettes often encourage smokers to continue using more-harmful traditional cigarette products.

Podcast Series: Voices of Vapers
https://www.heartland.org/multimedia/podcasts?fromDate=&toDate=&q=voices+of+vapers
In this weekly podcast series, State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud talks with researchers, advocates, and policymakers about tobacco harm reduction and electronic cigarettes. The series provides important information about the thousands of entrepreneurs who have started small businesses thanks to THRs and the millions of adults that have used electronic cigarettes and vaping devices to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Policy Tip Sheet: Vaping Hospitalizations Likely Linked to Black Markets
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/policy-tip-sheet-vaping-hospitalizations-likely-linked-to-black-markets
In this Policy Tip Sheet, State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines recent headlines, finding vaping-related hospitalizations are likely linked to illegal black market vaping products. Stroud examines reports from January 2019 which found youth were being hospitalized due to marijuana vaping products. Further, in 2018, the U.S. Army warned of the dangers of vaping synthetic marijuana after more than 90 military personnel were hospitalized and two died after vaping such devices. Further, none of the reports on the recent hospitalizations have been able to identify a single product that would have caused adverse health effects.

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. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Budget & Tax News website, The Heartland Institute’s website, our Consumer Freedom Lounge, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Lindsey Stroud, a state government relations manager at Heartland, at lstroud@heartland.org or 757/354-8170.