Banning flavoured vapes is an own goal for legislators aiming to reduce youth vaping06.01.21
In an attempt to curtail youth vaping, the state of California has proposed prohibiting the sale of all flavoured products that contain nicotine, including vapes. The regulation will be voted on by Californians in state elections in 2022 so is not yet in place.
We believe the very premise of this ban is flawed – it hinges on a fallacy that teens are overwhelmingly attracted to vaping for its flavours, even though a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has debunked this.
Young people vaping is a serious problem and one that needs to be tackled head-on, with a concerted effort from the e-cigarette industry, retailers, regulators and parents alike.
However, California’s ‘Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement’ Act is an unfortunate step in the wrong direction. The act follows local bans in Los Angeles County, as well as the city of San Francisco, where an Addictive Behaviours Report by analytics company Elsevier revealed it was not only relatively ineffectual, given many users of flavoured vaping products found ways to circumvent the policy, but alarmingly gave way to a rise in cigarette smoking rates.
The San Francisco study paints a damning picture: if the overall goal of banning flavoured nicotine products is to contribute towards smoking cessation, then the policy is flawed. Rising smoking rates in San Francisco should have alerted Californian legislators to the likely consequences of a flavour ban, but instead, lawmakers have promoted a policy of prohibition on an even larger scale.
The reality is that restricting consumer choice only hinders the likelihood of adult smokers making a switch to less harmful products such as vapes. Flavours are associated with positive smoking cessation outcomes for adults and vapes must be an attractive alternative for adult smokers in order for their potential public health benefit to be truly realised.
In an age of e-commerce, it’s a challenge to effectively police state-wide bans. But worse still, prohibition can lead to a slew of poor quality black market products – the consequences of which, as evidenced by last year’s EVALI outbreak, can be catastrophic. EVALI was caused by unregulated vaping liquids containing THC (the psychoactive constituent of cannabis) cut with an additive, Vitamin E acetate, that has never been used in nicotine-containing vape liquids sold legally.
Better enforcement of existing regulation is the answer to youth vaping, not draconian bans that limit access to legitimate, high quality vaping products and put adult smokers off transitioning to less harmful alternatives.