Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – October 6, 2017

Harm Reduction Newsletter

Nicotine and Harm Reduction Newsletter – October 6, 2017

Federal Updates

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb postponed the deadline for vapor product manufacturers to register their products to October 12, 2017. Manufacturers attempting to use the FDA’s online registration have been beset with complications including connectivity problems, system outages and data from other vendors appearing in other people’s accounts, the Daily Vaper reports.

In crafting its Deeming Rule, FDA estimated it would receive approximately 1,500 new product applications. Instead, manufacturers have already registered more than 2.5 million products, overwhelming FDA’s computer servers in the final days before the deadline. Still to be determined is whether FDA will have underestimated vapor product applications by a factor of 1,000 or more.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced legislation that would create a new federal tax on electronic cigarettes and vapor products that would equalize the tax rate with combustible cigarettes.

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

State Updates

Democrats in Connecticut were unable to secure the votes needed to pass a state budget that included a proposed 75 percent wholesale tax on vapor products and tax hike on smokeless tobacco (from $1 to $3 per ounce) and cigarettes (increase of 45 cents per pack from $3.90 to $4.35 tying New York for highest state tax in the nation).

A handful of Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans on a budget that removed the vapor, smokeless and cigarette tax proposals. However, Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, vetoed the budget. Reason Magazine’s Eric Boehm covered the issue at Reason.com.

Science and Harm Reduction

Millions of smokers could live substantially longer if they switch to vapor products, according to a new research paper published in Tobacco Control. Lead author David Levy, PhD, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center and a team of 10 investigators calculated two projections, one optimistic and one pessimistic, based on different scenarios concerning the relative risks of e-cigarettes versus combustibles, smoking cessation and youth smoking initiation, among others.

Under the ‘pessimistic’ scenario (which assumes e-cigarettes are 60 percent safer than combustible cigarettes, that 10 percent of the adult population continues to smoke, that initiation with e-cigarettes occurs at 1.5 times the rate of current smoking initiation, and that e-cigarette users quit using e-cigarettes at half the rate smokers quit smoking), 1.6 million of these former cigarette smokers will have a combined 20.8 million more years of life. Meanwhile, under the ‘optimistic’ scenario (which assumes that e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than conventional cigarettes, that smoking declines to 5 percent of the adult population by 2026, that initiation with e-cigarettes replaces smoking initiation above the 5 percent prevalence level, and that e-cigarette users quit using e-cigarettes at the same rate that smokers quit smoking), 6.6 million nicotine users who switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes will live a combined 86.7 million more life years. (The press release for the report).

Regulation

Competitive Enterprise Institute Fellow Michelle Minton argues the FDA’s Deeming Rule is ripe for the chopping block as part of the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda. “The Trump administration should follow through on its commitment to get rid of onerous and unfit rules, and replace them with regulations that make sense for this new industry,” says Minton. “In doing so, they can ensure that new technologies, designed to offer progressively safer alternatives for smokers, continue to be available to consumers.”

Taxation

High cigarette taxes significantly expand the market for illicit cigarettes, according to a working paper by economists at the American Enterprise Institute. Higher cigarette taxes increase both the availability and price of illicit cigarettes but illicit cigarettes remain substantially cheaper than legal cigarettes, according to the paper.

Speaking in a Q&A with AEI’s Matt Winesset, economist and co-author of the working paper Aparna Mathur voiced her concerns about the disproportionate impact higher cigarette taxes have on the poor. “My biggest problem is really how this market is going work, and thinking through all the vario ways in which they could hurt low-income people,” says Mathur. “And so with higher cigarette taxes we find that’s not really helping lower-income households: You’re just raising prices and pushing people into a worse market. So yes it’s regressive, but worse, it’s leading to worse health outcomes.”

Quotable Quotes

“Old policies need to be supplemented with policies that encourage substituting e-cigarettes for the far more deadly cigarettes,” – David Levy, PhD, professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center.

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.