Lobbying to ban flavored tobacco products undermines public health

On November 9, the Portland City Council Safety Committee voted to approve a sweeping ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products. The entire city council is expected to take action in the coming weeks. If passed, the Portland ordinance would make it the latest in a series of Maine jurisdictions – including Bangor and Washington County – that have launched ill-advised crackdowns on the vaping industry.

In a presentation to the safety committee, Kristen Goodrich, Tobacco Prevention Coordinator in Portland, said that 85% of young people use cigarettes and that “flavor bans have proven to be an effective public health strategy. “. Ms. Goodrich’s facts are false.

In 2019, 30.2% of high school students in Maine used electronic steam products for at least one day in the past 30 days – a worrying figure, of course, but nowhere near the level Ms. Goodrich claimed. Additionally, a growing body of evidence indicates that a ban on flavored e-cigarettes will do more harm than good.

The goal of the flavor ban is to discourage tobacco use – and that’s a laudable goal. About 2,400 Mainers die from smoking-related illnesses each year, according to the CDC. What the ban ignores, however, are the gradations of damage within the broad class of “tobacco products”.

While e-cigarettes are not without risk, public health authorities around the world – including the CDC, Johns Hopkins Medical School, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – agree that they are far safer than combustible cigarettes. A comprehensive review of the scientific literature by Public Health England in 2015 concluded: “In summary, the best estimates show that electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful to health than regular cigarettes, and when supported by a service. smoking cessation, they help most smokers. stop smoking completely.

Tragically, a flavor ban would move some Portlanders away from low-risk e-cigarettes and into deadly combustible cigarettes. A 2017 study by researchers at Yale University interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,031 adult and recent smokers and found that a ban on all flavored tobacco products would lead to a drop in 7.9% of the consumption of electronic cigarettes and an increase of 2.7 in the consumption of combustible cigarettes. percent and non-smokers to increase 5.2 percent.

Another recent study found that a flavor ban would cause 17.1% of adult e-cigarette users to quit vaping and smoke instead. This implies that the policy would bring some Portlanders back into the peloton. In other words, when they were denied their first choice of flavored electronic cigarettes, consumers decided to go for combustible cigarettes and give up the habit altogether.

If electronic cigarettes and combustible cigarettes were equally harmful, then the compromise would make sense. But they are not. As noted above, leading scientific bodies estimate that combustible cigarettes are 20 times more dangerous.

So while a flavor ban may provide small health benefits to e-cigarette users who quit tobacco products altogether, this gain is more than outweighed by the damage to e-cigarette users who switch to combustible cigarettes.

And for 1 in 15 high school students and 1 in 6 adults in Maine who currently smoke combustible cigarettes, restricting flavors on e-cigarettes will reduce the appeal of a potentially life-saving alternative. Research has shown that adults who vape flavored e-cigarettes were significantly more likely to quit smoking combustible cigarettes than those who vape tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.

Adults who have completely switched from smoking cigarettes to using e-cigarettes are increasingly likely to have started using e-cigarettes with flavors other than tobacco, according to a 2018 study in the United States. . “Restricting access to … electronic cigarette flavors can discourage smokers from attempting to switch to electronic cigarettes,” the authors conclude.

In making its decision on whether to move forward with the flavor ban, city council should take this evidence into account, which was ignored during the safety committee’s deliberations. Lives are at stake.

About Margaret Shaw

Check Also

95 Pakistanis think switching to alternatives can help quit smoking

About 95% of Pakistanis believe switching to alternatives can help them quit smoking, and 86% …