Research & Commentary: Florida Flavor Ban Would Not Curb Youth Vaping Use, Will Hurt Businesses

Published March 12, 2020

A bill under consideration in the Florida Legislature would ban the sale of flavored nicotine products (not including tobacco-flavored) throughout the Sunshine State. If enacted, Florida’s guidelines would be far stricter than federal standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and would only allow the sale of products that pass FDA’s Premarket Tobacco Product Applications process. According to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association, this bill would ban the sale of “80%-90% of vapor products” and would therefore put at risk any vape shop or any other business that sells vaping products.

In general, vaping devices and electronic cigarettes are tobacco harm reduction products medical experts have verified are thoroughly safer than combustible tobacco cigarettes. Lawmakers should refrain from categorizing them in the same manner as combustible cigarettes. These products have helped millions of smokers quit and can benefit state budgets by reducing smoking-related health care costs. Moreover, the vaping industry has provided major gains to state and local economies, and it will likely continue to do so, as the market is expected to grow in the coming years.

In Florida, the vaping industry created 5,353 direct vaping-related jobs in 2018, including manufacturing, retail, and wholesale jobs, which generated $198 million in wages alone, according to the Vapor Technology Association. Moreover, the industry has created hundreds of secondary jobs in the Sunshine State, bringing the total economic impact in 2018 to $1.479 billion. In the same year, Florida received more than $82 million in state taxes attributable to the vaping industry. These figures do not include sales in convenience stores, which sell vapor products, including disposables and prefilled cartridges. In 2016, sales of these products in Florida eclipsed $41.7 million.

Lawmakers should understand most youth are not using vapor products because of flavors. Several studies show the vast majority of youth use vapor products due to peer pressure and because their friends and/or family members have used these products. The Heartland Institute recently analyzed several statewide youth vaping surveys to understand the role of flavors in youth e-cigarette use. In an analysis of five states, only 15.6 percent of high school students cited using e-cigarettes because of flavors. A 2019 analysis of the National Youth Tobacco Survey reached similar conclusions, finding only 22.4 percent of middle and high school students said flavors are a reason for e-cigarette use, compared to 55.3 percent citing curiosity, and 30.8 percent citing using an e-cigarette because a “friend or family member used them.”

Moreover, there is insufficient evidence that a flavor ban will actually reduce youth e-cigarette use. 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 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.

The most recent report on youth e-cigarette use in Florida is from the 2019 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. According to the survey, in 2019, 25.6 percent of Florida high school students reported using a vapor product at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey. There is no information on frequent and/or current use in the 2019 survey. More data is needed to understand the impact of public health campaigns on youth e-cigarette use.

From January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, FDA administered 19,354 tobacco age compliance inspections in Florida, in which the agency used a minor in an attempt to purchase tobacco products. Of those, 3,703 (19 percent) resulted in a sale to a minor. Of the violations, 648 (17 percent of violations and 3 percent of all compliance checks) involved the sale of e-cigarettes or vaping devices. The number of violations involving sales of cigars and cigarettes were 1,860 and 1,161, respectively, during the same period.

Lawmakers should utilize existing tobacco monies for programs that can reduce youth vaping, rather than eliminate the economic stimulus the vapor industry has provided for Florida. In 2019, Florida received an estimated $1.53 billion in tobacco monies generated by taxes and tobacco settlement payments. In the same year, however, Florida dedicated just $70.4 million, or 4.6 percent of what was received in tobacco monies, on tobacco control programs, including education and prevention efforts.

Rather than prohibitionist policies that are unlikely to reduce youth e-cigarette use, Sunshine State lawmakers should reallocate existing tobacco monies to tobacco control programs. Vapor products have emerged as tobacco harm reduction products and their use should be promoted, not banned.

The following articles provide more information on vapor products and tobacco harm reduction.

Policy Tip Sheet: Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: Florida

A Heartland Institute analysis of the vaping industry in Florida, including economic data, state health department findings on vaping-related lung illnesses, youth e-cigarette use, tobacco retail compliance checks, and state funding dedicated to tobacco control programs.

Policy Tip Sheet: Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: Flavor Bans
Heartland State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud provides an analysis on the role of flavors in vapor products. In the research, Heartland found that in examination of five states, only 15.6 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes because of flavors, compared to a survey of 70,000 American adult vapers, in which 83.2 percent and 72.3 percent reported vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively. With nearly 80 percent of 2016 sales of e-liquids being flavored, a ban on flavored vapor products would cripple an industry that created more than $24 billion in total economic impact in 2018.

Policy Tip Sheet: Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: Menthol Bans
Heartland State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud provides an analysis on the role of menthol in tobacco products. In this Policy Tip Sheet, Stroud notes that a menthol ban would eliminate more than $130 billion in revenue over the next 10 years and such bans would lead to larger black markets.

Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: A Guidebook for Policymakers
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: 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 c

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 Heartland’s Government Relations department, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.