Scholars Argue Against E-Cigarette Flavor Bans

Federal law already bans the sale of all e-cigarettes to anyone under 21

Public health policy should be guided by science, data and a large dose of common sense. The promised benefits of any policy should be weighed against the known risks and possibility of unintended consequences.

Last February, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to adults. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., did not advance in the Senate, but is sure to rear its draconian head in the next Congress.

The prohibition of the legal sale of flavored e-cigarettes to adults is not supported by science, is undermined by an analysis of the available data, and lacks common sense.

Federal law already bans the sale of all e-cigarettes to anyone under 21, so the Pallone legislation would only change the legal status of the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to adults. That would harm public health, because the data tell us that adult smokers can significantly reduce their health risks if they switch from smoking to vaping. Vaping exposes users to fewer toxic chemicals than smoking cigarettes, and a British study found that long-term cigarette smokers who switched to vaping were halfway toward achieving the vascular health of a non-smoker within a month.

And because e-cigarettes are estimated to be 95% less harmful than cigarettes, according to Public Health England, they can be a boon to public health if adult smokers are able to completely and permanently make the switch. But achieving long-term benefits from the shift to vaping from cigarettes requires adherence, and survey after survey has found that adult smokers are better able to maintain the switch if they use flavored vaping products.

Flavors play a critical role in helping smokers quit. A 2018 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal found that, “Adult frequent e-cigarette users in the USA who have completely switched from smoking cigarettes to using e-cigarettes are increasingly likely to have initiated e-cigarette use with non-tobacco flavors and to have transitioned from tobacco to non-tobacco flavors over time.” The authors concluded that e-cigarette flavor bans “may discourage smokers from attempting to switch to e-cigarettes.”

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