Research & Commentary: Flavor Bans Would Snuff Out Vaping in New York

Published February 26, 2019

Overeager legislators in the Empire State have introduced legislation prohibiting the sale of flavored e-liquids used in electronic cigarettes. Senate Bill 428 would ban the sale of “characterizing flavors,” including, but not limited to, “fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, [and] herb or spice flavoring.” The legislation does not include tobacco or menthol flavors.

The legislation has been introduced to curb the use of e-cigarettes among youth, which the author has previously referred to as a “gateway drug” that leads teens to combustible tobacco cigarettes. Like other legislation introduced in California, New Mexico, and New Jersey, it has also been introduced in response to federal public health officials’ false campaigns depicting a youth vaping epidemic.

While surveys indicate youth vaping in 2018 was higher than 2017, much of the data on youth e-cigarette use is inconclusive and relies on faulty information. For example, the “2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey” and the “2018 Monitoring the Future Survey” found an increase in the number of youth who say they vape more than one time per month, but this is a misleading figure because it doesn’t make clear whether a person had, for example, vaped twice and then never vaped again or vaped multiple times per day each day of the month.

Moreover, there is no real data to suggest youths who use e-cigarettes will transition to combustible tobacco cigarettes. A January 2019 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute “found no evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking among youth,” according to Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Siegel examined the study, finding that the authors “were unable to report a single youth out of the 12,000 in the same who was a cigarette naïve, regular vaper at baseline who progressed to become a smoker at follow-up.”

Siegel also found that while “ever use of e-cigarettes increased the risk of smoking initiation, recent use of e-cigarettes (within the past 30 days) did not increase the risk of smoking.” It is important for lawmakers to understand that this finding is significant, as “the most definitive study to date of the [youth] issue fails to provide any evidence to support that” youth e-cigarette use leads to combustible tobacco cigarette use.

Further, in their attempt to protect youth, legislators are threatening to limit access to tobacco harm reduction products that have helped millions of adult Americans quit smoking. Of the estimated 10 million adult vapers in the United States, nearly three million are former tobacco smokers. This isn’t surprising considering that research shows e-cigarettes are a more effective tool for cessation than traditional nicotine replacement therapy. A 2019 study found e-cigarettes are “twice as effective as nicotine replacement at helping smokers quit.”

Flavors, many of which would be banned by the proposed legislation, are an important reason why electronic cigarettes have been so successful in helping people quit using tobacco. A 2016 Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) survey of 37,343 e-cigarette users found 72 percent of respondents “credited tasty flavors with helping them give up tobacco.” A 2018 survey of nearly 70,000 American adult vapers produced similar results. Nearly 95 percent of the survey’s respondents reported “that they were ever smokers,” and many cited using flavors at the point of e-cigarette initiation.

There is considerable concern that should former smokers be forced to use only the flavors that stimulate traditional tobacco cigarettes, they will return to tobacco cigarettes.

It’s also important to note that the e-cigarette industry has a strong history of supporting efforts to restrict youth access to their products. The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association provides “Age to Vape” signage to vape shops endorsing local laws. CASAA supports age restrictions and “urges strict enforcement of laws.” The Vapor Technology Association, which represents vaping manufacturers, requires members to “refrain from knowingly marketing Vapor Products to Minors, which is strictly prohibited.”

Banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes would essentially vaporize tobacco harm reduction in New York State. As a product that is 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes, e-cigarettes could alleviate state budgets through reduced health care costs and they are an economic boon, providing local economies with new business opportunities. Lawmakers should promote their use as a tobacco harm reduction product and refrain from enacting overreaching regulations and prohibition.

The following documents provide more information about 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: Largest Vaping Survey Finds Flavors Play Important Role in Tobacco Harm Reduction–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.

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.

Nicotine Without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction
This report provides an update on the use of tobacco harm reduction strategies related to non-tobacco nicotine products, particularly e-cigarettes. The authors conclude for all the potential risks involved, harm reduction has significant potential to prevent death and disability caused by tobacco use and to hasten the nation’s progress toward a tobacco-free society.

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.

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 The Heartland Institute, at [email protected] or 757/354-8170.