Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – June 2019
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Harm Reduction Newsletter

Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – June 2019

Harm reduction advocates have won a series of victories defeating flavor bans in Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, and New York. 

Federal Updates

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to overhaul its approach to cost-benefit analysis, according to a new paper from Reason Foundation economist Pierre Lemieux. 

Under the pressure of anti-smoking activists using the veil of behavioral economics, the FDA has recently downplayed one of the most important factors in cost-benefit analysis—consumer surplus. 

“Without incorporating the full consumer surplus, cost-benefit analysis risks becoming a mere rubber stamp for government proposals. Moreover, the justifications for obliterating or reducing consumer surplus are based on cognitive biases and assumptions of individuals’ lack of self-control, but implicitly assume that politicians and government bureaucrats are not subject to the same failings,” writes Lemieux. You can read the full report here

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb argued the agency could ease the approval pathway for open system e-cigarettes by allowing companies to file a common application together. Closed system products like Juul, Gottlieb argued, should face a harder process due as they are the favored products among the youth vaping population. Gottlieb suggested closed system products could be approved as over the counter drugs. In a move that surprised almost no one, a few days after the publication of his op-ed Gottlieb announced he is joining the board of pharma giant Pfizer, one of the world’s biggest producers of nicotine replacement therapies.

In response to the May 15 ruling by Judge Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, which found FDA exceeded its authority when it pushed back product application deadlines set out in the deeming rule, the agency came back with a compromise. FDA proposed a 10-month period for e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their product applications. The public health groups who brought the lawsuit, however, are demanding a deadline of 120 days. Both time-scales would prove fatal for the vast majority of e-cigarette producers who would not have been able to comply with the original delayed deadlines.

State Updates

Rarely do anti-vape policies make international news, but San Francisco’s decision to ban the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes stirred interest across the world. Reason’s Guy Bentley and Jacob Sullum argued the ban is disastrous public health policy and overreaction to the issue of youth vaping. Signatures have already been gathered to put the ban to a vote.

Unfortunately, bad policy rarely stays quarantined. Following the passage of San Francisco’s vapor prohibition, the mayor of Seattle, lusting after headlines and a pat on the back from e-cigarette prohibitionists, said there needs to be a “conversation” about banning e-cigarettes. 

In happier news, harm reduction advocates won a series of victories defeating flavor bans in Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, and New York.

However, tax fights remain in Connecticut, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.

In Washington, a petition is being circulated to require state tax increases to expire after one year unless approved by a majority vote of the people, and immediately terminate any tax increases imposed in 2019 without such approval. The deadline for the petition is June 28th. If the campaign succeeds in gathering enough signatures and achieves victory at the ballot box Washington’s draconian e-cigarette tax which was signed into law in May could be junked. 

Science and Harm Reduction

According to a study published in Tobacco Control, the introduction of Philip Morris’s heat-not-burn product IQOS likely reduced cigarette sales in Japan. The study’s authors do not come to a conclusion about the net health impact, claiming it “cannot be assessed without resolving several key uncertainties related to the direct harms of IQOS and the precise patterns of both smoking and IQOS use.”

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) had zero impact on global cigarette consumption, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The FCTC was the first treaty of its kind and there have been numerous calls to replicate in other areas of public health.

Additional Resources

A Question of Taste: The Public Health Case for E-Cigarette Flavors

The World Health Organization’s Opposition to Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Threat to Public Health? 

The Vapor Revolution: How Bottom-Up Innovation Is Saving Lives 

Reason’s Research and Analysis of Nicotine and Vapor Issues

Guy Bentley is director of consumer freedom at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.