Another wrongheaded move from lawmakers in an effort to curb tobacco use comes to us this time from San Francisco. The city is about to become the first city in the country to ban flavored e-liquid, including menthol. The ban was passed by unanimous vote by the city supervisors and now just needs to pass the city board to become law.
The sponsor of the legislation says that it focuses on flavors of e-cigarettes because “they are widely considered to be a starter product for future smokers.”
The trouble is, they are also widely considered to be a starter product for current smokers who are trying to save their lives by switching to vaping.
Furthermore, there is zero evidence that people who start with vaping are “future smokers.” The idea that non-smokers who take up vaping wind up switching to cigarettes comes from the minds of liberal anti-smoking groups, not from real life. Studies have shown that people who vape are not as addicted to their product as smokers are to cigarettes. A specific study on teenagers showed that vaping does not lead to smoking for the majority of vaping teens.
But anti-smoking groups, especially those on the political left, have decided that vaping is unhealthy and are either misinformed or actually lying when spreading misinformation. Unfortunately for smokers and for the health of everyone, that misinformation is working to get lawmakers to restrict, tax and even ban vaping along with smoking.
Vaping saves lives. While flavors bans are not as detrimental as complete bans on vaping products, flavors are appealing to many smokers. San Francisco will also be banning flavored cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, including menthol. The irony is that the most beneficial thing for smokers might be a ban on flavored cigarettes and cigars with flavored e-cigarettes still being allowed. That could give smokers even more reason to switch to the safer alternative of vaping.
San Francisco retailers who sell e-cigarettes are against the ban, and they say that while it will hurt them, people who vape and want flavors will still easily be able to find those products on the internet.
One of the strangest aspects of this ban is the support it’s getting for a reason that seems to be new among the usual reasons that come from the anti-vaping crowd. The sponsor of the bill claims that tobacco companies specifically target African Americans and gay people with flavored products.
When speaking about cigarettes and other non-vapor tobacco products, there is much evidence that black people, black men especially, who smoke tend to favor menthol products. But the notion that “tobacco companies” (who actually only represent a minority of e-cigarette manufacturers) are targeting African Americans and gay people with flavored e-cigarettes appears to be another invented idea designed to vilify vaping.
But tactics like this work with lawmakers. San Francisco is well-represented by the African American and LGBT community. What lawmakers need to hear, however, is the truth that vaping helps smokers and does not harm non-smokers. There is science to back this up, but politically, it has thus far been left to mostly conservative politicians to get this point across. Currently there is federal legislation drafted by a Republican that would change the categorization of e-cigarettes, making it a unique product instead of a tobacco product. Bipartisan legislation that would have saved millions of vaping products from being wiped off the market was shot down by Democrats.
And the biggest irony of all is that the tobacco companies stand to benefit the most from the misguided laws that are supposed to be stopping smoking. If the majority of vaping manufacturers and retailers, which are small businesses across the country, are eventually driven out of business by bans and testing requirements that they cannot afford, that will leave Big Tobacco to rule the e-cigarette market. Tobacco companies have shown that they are not even as interested in e-cigarettes as we know them to be now, as they are in other types of vaporizing products that they plan to develop. One company is currently developing a vaporizer product that involves tobacco, which e-cigarettes do not. If anti-e-cigarettes advocates think the “unknown” of e-cigarettes is dangerous, they should be even more worried about the unknown of a future where vaping is controlled by Big Tobacco.