Thursday, 21 November 2019

Is the USA coming to its senses on e-cigarettes (and cigarettes)?

After an insane few months, there are signs that the USA is coming to its senses...

President Donald Trump has reversed plans to ban flavoured e-cigarettes amid a national youth vaping crisis, US media report.

He announced plans for a ban in September, but reportedly decided not to enact it this month because of possible job losses and voter pushback.

Vapers have done a great job of getting on the street and letting Trump know that they will not be voting for anyone who takes away their e-cigarettes.

Thousands of lung injuries have been attributed to vaping this year.

The injuries were due to people using THC cartridges that were contaminated with Vitamin E acetate, as I and many others pointed out at the time, and as the CDC belatedly acknowledged this month.

Shamefully, the BBC article doesn't mention THC or Vitamin E at all. If you want some real journalism, read this excellent article which tells the full story of how a thickening agent got into black market THC vapes.

Nothing can be taken for granted, but it seems that Trump is stepping back from taking the most extreme and damaging actions. Unfortunately, individual states are now lining up to ban e-cigarette flavours.

Meanwhile, the FDA is stepping back from its harm maximisation approach to combustible cigarettes.

U.S. regulators are hitting the brakes on plans to force tobacco companies to drastically reduce addictive nicotine in cigarettes, retreating on an ambitious public-health initiative that comes amid increasing worry about nicotine use among young people. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped a proposal unveiled two years ago to cut the nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels, according to a regulatory document published Wednesday.

No one knows what a 'nonaddictive' level is. It is probably zero. The FDA cannot legally remove all the nicotine from cigarettes, but it can reduce it to almost zero. Doing so would be prohibition in all but name (you could buy 0.5% beer under Prohibition but nobody pretended that beer hadn't been prohibited). People would smoke more cigarettes or, more likely, buy them from the black market.

It's a dumb, illiberal idea that surfaces in tobacco control every few years and is shelved once regulators think through the consequences. This is as close as it has ever got to happening. 

Finally, let's remind ourselves that the backdrop to this year's hysteria about vaping is record low cigarette sales and a record low smoking rate among both adults and minors.

Cigarette smoking among U.S. adults reached an all-time low in 2018 at nearly 14%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday, a decline of roughly 66% over the last 50 years.

That is lower than any European country excepty Sweden 'despite' a supposedly unregulated e-cigarette market and relatively few supposedly evidence-based anti-smoking measures, such as comprehensive advertising bans, graphic warnings, plain packaging, display bans, snus bans, etc.

American consumers are not out of the woods yet. Whatever happens, the events of the last few months have been a reminder that lying prohibitionists will stop at nothing.

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