Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Public Policy Toward Alternatives to Smoking

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: The FDA’s deeming regulations will impose costly compliance measures on the e-cigarette industry. Proponents of harsh FDA regulations ignore or trivialize the health benefits and health care cost savings that tobacco harm reduction products, including e-cigarettes, provide. Policymakers should take sound science into consideration when deliberating new regulations or taxes on e-cigarettes. The imposition of bans, excessive regulations, or high taxes on e-cigarettes could encourage smokers to stay with more-harmful traditional cigarettes instead of switching to less harmful alternatives.

Tobacco harm reduction is a proven strategy for helping smokers reduce their tobacco use or quit altogether. Policymakers genuinely interested in the welfare of smokers should avoid policies that punish smokers for switching to e-cigarettes and other vapor products. It is the smoke produced by burning tobacco, not the ingestion of nicotine, that ought to be the target of public health campaigns. Tax policy should not punish smokers for making the transition to e-cigarettes and other vapor products.

E-cigarette bans are nothing more than a “public shaming” of vapor product users, a cosmetic regulation aimed at people who “look like” they are smoking. Such bans stigmatize vapor products as just as dangerous as smoking and deter smokers from switching to the less harmful products.

Expanding existing age restrictions to e-cigarettes is a logical step in protecting against abuse. However, legislators must avoid using risks to youths as an excuse for over-regulating and overtaxing e-cigarettes, because that would disrupt an increasingly popular and successful method of helping adults reduce smoking or quit altogether. 

Regulating flavors undermines an essential part of the usefulness of vapor products in smoking cessation. A 2016 Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association survey of 27,343 e-cigarette users found 72 percent of respondents “credited tasty flavors with helping them give up tobacco.”

Regulators rely on and perpetuate four common myths about e-cigarettes: 

1) There is an epidemic of e-cigarette poisoning of children.

2) E-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.

3) E-cigarettes don’t help smokers quit.

4) E-cigarettes aren’t any less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

After more than five decades, the anti-smoking campaign in the United States has failed to deliver effective measures to reduce harm from tobacco cigarettes.

The “quit or die” strategy pursued by regulators has failed all Americans, smokers and non-smokers alike. By contrast, tobacco harm reduction is a proven strategy that has helped millions of Americans to quit smoking or stay smoke-free. E-cigarettes have proven to be the most popular, most successful tobacco replacement products.

Policymakers genuinely interested in the welfare of smokers should avoid policies that punish smokers for switching to e-cigarettes and other vapor products. Tobacco harm reduction is compassionate, ethical, and successful.

Read the full report here.

Feature Charticle

Beliefs About E-Cigarettes Harm Compared with Cigarettes

Heartland Institute