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Yale economist: Vaping flavor bans will only increase sales for Big Tobacco

Posted by Matt Rowland on


The vaping community is under attack by a combination of local legislatures in cities like San Francisco and Manhattan which want to implement bans on the sales of flavored e-liquids.  Despite volumes of scientific research showing that e-cigs are 95 percent less harmful than combustible tobacco products, that they do not act as a gateway to teen smoking, and that they are not laced with the thousands of toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco cigarettes, lawmakers keep pushing forward with anti-vaping legislation.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half a million people die every year from smoking-related illnesses, and another 40,000 deaths are attributed to second-hand smoke.  Meanwhile, Big Tobacco spends about $9 billion annually on the marketing of their products, which translates to about $25 per day or $1 million per hour.

Taking the common-sense approach, electronic vaping devices seem like the perfect solution to a decades-old problem.  Vaping is less harmful than smoking, and thanks to the nearly 7,000 different e-liquid flavors currently on the market, vaping is also now considered the most effective smoking cessation product overall.  In fact, two different groups of scientists out of Switzerland and the UK have already confirmed this to be true. 

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So, why would local governments want to ban flavored e-liquids?  Their theory is that flavored e-juices encourage younger people to vape, which will further entice them to smoke.  But the research already indicates otherwise.  The true reason behind these attempted flavor bans probably has more to do with campaign contributions by Big Tobacco to individual lawmakers rather than some puritanical concern over teen smoking rates.

Overview of the Yale flavor ban study

John Buckell of Yale University recently published a paper in September 2017 entitled, Should Flavors be Banned in E-cigarettes? Evidence on Adult Smokers and Recent Quitters from a Discrete Choice Experiment.  The document is readily available on the website for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), as reported by Journalist's Resource.

 Notice the word “Economic?”  This is essentially a research paper about money rather than mythical teen smoking rates.

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Buckell and his team began their report by surveying some 2,031 smokers and former smokers in the United States.  The economists asked about the participants’ smoking and vaping preferences, and their expected responses to theoretical bans on menthol cigarettes, flavored e-liquids, or both.  Below is a brief outline of what the Bruckell team discovered.

  • If the U.S. government were to ban only menthol cigarettes and not flavored e-liquids, cumulative cigarette sales would likely drop by an estimated 4.8 percent. 5 percent would transition to vaping while the remaining 1.3 percent would likely give up smoking and vaping completely.
  • If the U.S. government were to ban both menthol cigarettes and menthol-flavored e-liquids, tobacco sales would likely rise by an estimated 2.7 percent overall while the cumulative number of American smokers would likely drop by about 5.2 percent.
  • But… if the U.S. government were to ban both menthol cigarettes and all flavored e-liquids, an estimated 8.3 percent of the American vaping community would probably relapse back into smoking.

“We find that the recently denied FDA ban would result in increased choice of combustible cigarettes, the most harmful alternative. However, a ban on menthol in combustibles would result in the greatest reduction in smoking of combustibles.”

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints, policy or company position of Vapes.com, the rest of our staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.



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