Research & Commentary: Flavor Ban Restrictions Would Vaporize Tobacco Harm Reduction in California

Published July 11, 2019

After a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products was shelved by its sponsor, California lawmakers are once again trying to restrict the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.

Assembly Bill 1639 would limit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to specialty, age-restricted tobacco and vape shops, and online retailers that use age-verification technology. Tobacco, mint, and menthol flavored e-cigarettes would be excluded from the ban. Other provisions in the legislation include increased monetary penalties for retailers in violation, as well as a newly created $100 fine for persons “at least 18 years of age, but less than 21 years of age” who are found guilty of being in possession of vaping devices.

Although preventing minors from buying nicotine products is worthy, lawmakers should refrain from policies that further restrict adult access to tobacco harm reduction devices.

Since their introduction to the U.S. market in 2007, electronic cigarettes and vaping devices have helped an estimated three million American adults quit smoking. Moreover, a 2019 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the use of e-cigarettes to be “twice as effective” as nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit.

Flavors have been essential in helping smokers transition from combustible cigarettes. 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 study of nearly 70,000 American adults found similar conclusions among adult vapers, with flavors providing a “vital role in the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.” Moreover, 83.2percent and 72.3 percent of survey respondents reported vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively, “at least some of the time.”

Despite this overwhelming evidence, California lawmakers seem intent on severely restricting the sale of tobacco harm reduction products, while still permitting retailers to offer much more harmful, combustible cigarettes.

Vaping devices have helped millions of Americans quit smoking. It is imperative that vaping devices be allowed for purchase in retailers where combustible cigarettes are permitted for sale.

Further, it is hypocritical for lawmakers to state they intend to curb youth e-cigarette use. California spends very little on tobacco education and prevention efforts. In 2018, the Golden State received approximately $2.582 billion in tobacco settlement payments and taxes, yet only spent $327.8 million, less than 1 percent, on prevention efforts.

Worse, California has sold future payments from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).  According to the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission, the Golden State Tobacco Securitization Corporation sold “$13.2 billion in tobacco securitization bonds” from 2003 to 2009. The bonds issued equate to more than half of the $21 billion in MSA funds California was estimated to receive over a 25 year period, beginning in 2002. Essentially, California needs smokers in order to meet future debt obligations.

It is disingenuous that lawmakers would restrict adults from buying tobacco harm reduction products while allowing access to much more harmful, combustible cigarettes. Although attempts to address youth use of tobacco products is commendable, lawmakers should not severely restricteffective smoking cessation products that have helped millions of Americans quit smoking.

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

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.

Research & Commentary: Randomized Trial Finds E-Cigarettes Are a More Effective Smoking Cessation Tool than Nicotine Replacement Therapy–commentary-randomized-trial-finds-e-cigarettes-are-more-effective-smoking-cessation-tool-than-nicotine-replacement-therapy
In this Research & Commentary, Lindsey Stroud, a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, examines a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that shows e-cigarettes and vaping devices are twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in helping smokers quit using tobacco cigarettes. Nearly 700 participants were studied during a 52-week period. Researchers found that 18 percent of e-cigarette users reported abstinence, compared to 9 percent of those using NRT. Stroud wrote that “these latest findings provide more valuable information on the public health role that e-cigarettes and vaping devices provide for the 38 million cigarette smokers in the United States,” and she implores policymakers to regulate these devices in a way that promotes, rather than prohibits, their use.

Research & Commentary: Vaping Taxes Do Not Deter Youth Use of E-Cigarettes–commentary-vaping-taxes-do-not-deter-youth-use-of-e-cigarettes
In this Research & Commentary, Lindsey Stroud, a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, examines the effects of Pennsylvania’s 2016 40 percent wholesale tax on youth vaping. Using data from the Pennsylvania Annual Youth Survey, Stroud finds the tax did not curb youth e-cigarette use, and from 2015 to 2017, youth use of e-cigarettes increased in Pennsylvania. Stroud cautions lawmakers to avoid enacting taxes on e-cigarettes in an effort to address youth e-cigarette use.

Research & Commentary: Qualitative Study on E-cigarettes Shows More Evidence of Tobacco Harm Reduction
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland Institute State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines a study, published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in June 2016, that provides additional evidence showing e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) are an effective tobacco harm-reduction tool.

Research & Commentary: New CDC Report Finds Vaping Helps Smokers Quit
A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 0.4 percent of the people who had never smoked tobacco in a CDC study group are current vapers, which the report defines as using a vaping device either every day or some days. The CDC report, the first of its kind, estimates e-cigarette use among U.S. adults using a nationally representative household survey. The report’s findings claim only 3.4 of adults who have never smoked have tried an e-cigarette; 12.6 percent of Americans have tried an e-cigarette; and fewer than 4 percent of the U.S. population are regular e-cigarette users.

E-Cigarettes Poised to Save Medicaid Billions
In a new report from State Budget Solutions, J. Scott Moody finds e-cigarette use could create significant savings for state governments, especially in their Medicaid programs: “As shown in this study, the potential savings to Medicaid significantly exceeds [sic] the state revenue raised from the cigarette excise tax and tobacco settlement payments by 87%. As such, the rational policy decision is to adopt a non-interventionist stance toward the evolution and adoption of the e-cig until hard evidence proves otherwise.”


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.

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