War On Vape Flavors Could Wreak Havoc On The Industry

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A federal ban on flavors for vaping devices would devastate the industry and risk pushing scores of former smokers back towards cigarettes, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Yale School of Public Health and the Centre for Health Policy at the Imperial College in London published a study through the National Bureau of Economic Research in September analyzing the potential effects of various tobacco and nicotine flavor restrictions on U.S. smoking and vaping populations. The scientists found that a ban on e-cigarette flavors would reduce the use of vaping devices by more than 10 percent, reports Market Watch.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is currently investigating the effects of flavors on youths, adopted a restrictive policy on flavors the researchers fear vapers will turn back to combustible cigarettes, that they note carry far more risk to the user.

The scientists found the opposite effect, however, when they focused on menthol flavoring in combustible cigarettes. The sale of flavored cigarettes is banned at the federal level, but the regulations exclude menthol products. A federal ban on menthol tobacco would reduce the smoking rate by 4.8 percent, with most of those users turning to e-cigarettes, the researchers claim.

Anti-vaping crusaders often focus on flavors as a problem, arguing they attract youth to tobacco products early, serving as a gateway to addiction. This narrative has been widely debunked in numerous studies and ignores federal data showing declines in both youth vaping and smoking rates.

Clive Bates of Counterfactual, a public interest consultancy and advocacy group, has previously noted that flavored vapor products are key to helping the smoker “disconnect from the taste of tobacco” and ultimately quit. Medical experts focused on harm reduction say misrepresentations of vaping, often driven by politic interests, damage overall public health and risk costing smokers’ lives.

Americans are increasingly turning to electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, according to federal data showing that former smokers made up 34 percent of all vapers in 2016.

A paper released Sept. 28 by the free-market think tank R Street Institute reveals the overall vaping population in the U.S. declined for the second straight year in 2016, while the share of the population that are former smokers increased, rising from 2.49 million to 2.62 million Americans in 2016.

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