Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – October 20, 2017

Harm Reduction Newsletter

Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – October 20, 2017

Federal Updates

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a press release and spoke at a press conference calling on Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to rescind the delayed implementation of new regulations on vapor products. Reason Foundation’s Brian Fojtik commented on Schumer’s request and a recent bill from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to tax vapor products at the Daily Vaper.

The FDA docket on the modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) application from Philip Morris for its IQOS heat not burn tobacco product remains open for public comment. Reason Foundation previously filed a comment with FDA in support of the application.

State Updates

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have prohibited smoking and vaping on state coastal beaches or in a unit of the state park system.

Following previous bans passed in Oakland and San Francisco, the California city of San Leandro banned the sale of flavored tobacco and vapor products by a 6-1 vote this week. Opponents of the San Francisco ban have successfully petitioned for a voter referendum on this issue next June.  

New York’s legislature passed and sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo legislation that would expand the state’s clean indoor air act or smoking ban to include vapor products. Reason Foundation’s Brian Fojtik highlighted the counterproductive nature of the policy in the New York Post. Gov. Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a law that requires child-resistant packaging for e-liquid used in electronic nicotine-delivery systems and prohibits the use of nicotine vapor products in schools.  

Science and Harm Reduction

Clive Bates, former director of Action on Smoking and Health in the U.K., published a two-page note highlighting the facts and figures of youth tobacco use in the U.S.  Data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, published in June 2017, showed both record low cigarette use and a fall in e-cigarette use in 2016. The second graph in Bates’ document examines the University of Michigan’s 2016 Monitoring the Future survey, which shows an accelerating decline in youth smoking post-2010.  Bates argues the headline numbers regarding youth e-cigarette are also far less problematic than they suggest. While it is true that youth e-cigarette use rose substantially from 2011-15 and fell in 2016, much of this use was occasional or experimental. Many of the students who did experiment with e-cigarettes did so with products that contained no nicotine liquids. Data shows that adult smoking has also fallen rapidly as vaping has risen.

Regulation

Local e-cigarette crackdowns are both misguided and counterproductive, according to R Street Institute Northeast Region Manager Nicolas John. “The measure of a successful public health policy should be the impact it has on the whole population, not just certain segments,” writes John. “While cigarette use in the United States is at an all-time low, the significant drop-off in smoking rates is due, at least in part, to the development of attractive (and much safer) alternatives.”

Heavy-handed restrictions on vapor products aimed at protecting minors are more likely to harm the adult population of current smokers — who would benefit from switching to reduced risk nicotine products such as e-cigarettes — by reducing the accessibility, availability and affordability of these products. Specifically, measures targeting flavored vapor products are misguided as adolescent non-smokers have less interest in these allegedly youth-targeted flavors than adult smokers, according to a study by Saul Shiffman and colleagues.

Taxation

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Baptist Health are arguing for a $1 hike in the state’s tobacco tax, which would raise the tax to $1.60. The Kentucky Farm Bureau argues a tax increase would be unwise, as smokers may go to neighboring states to stock up on cheaper cigarettes. For example, Missouri, which shares a small part of its border with Kentucky, has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation at 17 cents a pack.

Quotable Quotes

“Put simply, there is no youth e-cigarette crisis. The data from the last several years demonstrates that the rise of vapor products correlates with significant drops in teen smoking.”

Brian Fojtik, Senior Fellow at Reason Foundation

Additional Resources

Comment to FDA on Modified Risk Tobacco Product Application

The Proposed Tobacco Product Standard for NNN Level in Smokeless Tobacco Should Be Withdrawn

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 a consumer freedom research associate at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.