The Corner

Health Care

Vape-Flavor Bans Head to the States

Patthasorn Kleespies of German e-cigarette manufacturer Eazzi tests a new vaping cigarette in Gelnhausen, Germany, January 29, 2019. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Last week I made the case against the Trump administration’s forthcoming ban on flavored e-cigarette liquids. I bring this up because there is now a wave of state-level bans, with New York and California joining Michigan, that will be in effect even if the federal effort falters. 

I made two main points in my piece: (1) It’s unclear this will benefit public health, because flavored e-cigarettes are attractive to current and would-be adult smokers who would benefit from switching, not just to teens trying nicotine for the first time; and (2) health impacts aside, this is an affront to personal freedom and responsibility. These arguments apply just as well to state-level bans as they do to a federal one.

Regarding the first point, though, I’d like to add some data I discovered via the American Enterprise Institute’s Sally Satel. Last year, the Harm Reduction Journal published the results of a survey showing definitively that fruit- and candy-flavored vaping products are not just for teenagers. Among adult smokers who switched to vaping in 2015 and 2016, only a quarter started their vaping use with tobacco flavoring. Current use of tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes was even lower. The most popular flavorings were “fruit/fruit beverage followed by dessert/pastry and candy/chocolate/sweets.”

Not every ex-smoker will return to his old ways if you make him use e-cigarettes that taste like tobacco instead of e-cigarettes that actually taste good. But it’s impossible to deny that these bans take away something that makes vaping more attractive than smoking, not just for teens but also for adults. Since vaping is about 95 percent safer than smoking, that’s to be celebrated, not banned.

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