Tom Miller, the attorney general for Iowa, is once again making the case that the FDA’s potential flavor ban would do more harm than good
Vaping has exploded in popularity, skyrocketing from a fringe device to a multi-billion dollar industry all its own. But as the popularity increases, so does the battles over when and how people can use them legally. We see lots of exorbitant taxes and even outright bans, but the community always stays strong and supports the harm reduction devices. A common complaint from critics is the supposed danger posed to children. They claim that the variety of e-liquid flavors is attracting non-smoking teens and some even claim these kids will eventually turn to traditional cigarettes.
Adult vapers have denied these claims, instead choosing to explain how flavors were a significant part of their quitting success. The FDA has been at the forefront of this flavor ban push, with Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb announcing a probe into if they should ban all e-liquid flavors outside traditional tobacco and menthol. They even had a public comment period where vapers were asked to give their input on what flavors meant to them. Unfortunately, this period has ended, but we now have details about another letter sent to the FDA by AG Tom Miller and a group of like-minded experts.
Last Shot Effort
This isn’t the first time that Mr. Miller has gone on the record questioning if an e-liquid flavor ban would ultimately do a lot more damage than good. He was joined once again by a supporting cast of names that include Dr. David Abrams, Dr. David Sweanor, and the former director of Action on Smoking and Health, Clive Bates. The biggest concern of the group is how the FDA is thinking about vaping regulation. That is, as an addition to smoking regulations, and not an invaluable smoking cessation and harm reduction aid.
This is manifesting itself in several ways, but most notably with the Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) fiasco. Essentially, the FDA is forcing small independent vaping companies to submit to the same regulations and litmus tests placed on multinational smoking conglomerates when attempting to introduce any new device to market. While these new regulations were luckily delayed, as it currently stands they still threaten the vaping industry when they come into effect.
Miller and his backers believe that by backing this ban, the government is, in essence, giving Big Tobacco companies a huge advantage, given they possess the knowledge and resources to deal with hefty fees and regulations. Additionally, they believe by not acknowledging the harm reduction value of e-cigarettes the FDA is inadvertently misinforming the public and preventing many smokers from switching to something at least 95% safer than continued smoking.
As he says in the open letter to the FDA, “Information on risk provided by trusted agencies must change. The emphasis on there being ‘no safe’ or ‘harmless’ tobacco product, when given in isolation, under-informs consumers and can mislead them to think that non-combustible products are just as dangerous as cigarettes.” Ultimately they hope to forge a path forward in which the FDA will work to understand precisely how we should utilize vaping, instead of merely working to regulate it like tobacco.
Teenage Vaping Concerns
The most common reason people give for support of a widespread e-liquid flavor ban is that flavors are attracting non-smoking teens, many of whom eventually become full-blown cigarette smokers. It’s no wonder why this has become such a universal justification, as smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health and protecting our children is paramount. But there’s one little problem; no large-scale evidence has shown that non-smoking teens are flocking to vaping in droves, never mind leading them to then pick up combustible cigarettes.
In fact, the evidence we do have on the subject strongly supports the idea that the overwhelming majority of teens who vape had previously been cigarette smokers. A study of over 60,000 students conducted by Public Health England and published last year concluded that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens ever pick up vaping regularly, let alone transition to smoking.
No one wants to lead their child toward a life of smoking. So it’s understandable why so many parents back the idea of a full ban on all e-liquid flavors except tobacco and menthol. After all, it’s true that many brands of e-liquid offer indulgent flavors that may come off as aimed at children. But adults enjoy candy and sweets as well, and many vapers believe that having such tasty flavors is a significant part of what helped them succeed.
Given the research, we know that vaping is one of the most effective smoking cessation and harm reduction devices we have. So why are legislators attempting to take away one of the most significant portions of the tool? If the FDA’s flavor ban becomes law, it’ll likely lead to an influx of vapers returning to smoking as their favorite flavor is no longer an option. This would be a serious mistake in the fight against tobacco. If we want to reduce the overall societal health risk, we should be working to utilize vaping, not condemn and weaken it.
Do you think that the FDA should be targeting e-liquid flavors? Why do you believe the FDA is so set on a flavor ban? What’s the best way to educate people about the harm reduction and smoking cessation value of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.