Wednesday 26 May 2021

Another dumb idea from tobacco control: e-cigarette flavour bans

San Francisco's ban on e-cigarette flavours has had a predictable outcome.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this week looked a ban on e-cigarette flavours implemented in San Francisco on 1 January 2019. The ban was supposed to make e-cigarettes less appealing to young people. And so it did, but with the unintended consequence that high school students smoked more instead. After the ban came into effect, the youth of San Francisco were more than twice as likely to smoke than their counterparts in other districts. As the author noted: “This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking.”

This finding did not come as a big surprise to anyone familiar with the academic literature. Cigarettes and e-cigarettes are clearly substitute products, as studies have shown in both the USA and the European Union. Last year, a study by Yang et al. found that the ban on e-cigarette flavours in San Francisco led to increased smoking prevalence among 18-24-year-olds. Cigarette sales in the USA overall rose in 2020, partly as a result of federal restrictions on flavours used in certain e-cigarette products.

The observation that e-cigarettes are a substitute for combustible cigarettes might seem obvious, but it has crucial implications for policy because it means that efforts to suppress e-cigarette use are likely to lead to greater use of traditional cigarettes.
Read all about it at the IEA blog.
Despite flavour bans defying evidence, logic and ethics, governments are lining up to adopt them. The Netherlands is the latest and the European Commission is also eyeing one up. 
There is no idea in 'public health' too stupid and counterproductive to not be embraced by gormless politicians.

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