A difference-in-difference analysis examining the change in vape product sales in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington before and after flavour bans, has found that statewide restrictions on non–tobacco-flavored sales were associated with reductions of 25.01% to 31.26% in total unit sales compared with total sales in states without restrictions.
The hasty conclusion of this analysis is that the reduction in total sales has also reduced youth vaping prevalence.
The conclusion of this study is flawed for several reasons. First, the study acknowledges that it did not have the ability to assess the age of purchasers. The most common way for youth to access these products is through social sourcing. Even if the age of the purchasers could be verified, a reduction in youth vaping could only be determined through additional studies. Moreover, reducing vape use is not a victory when the outcome was likely former smokers either returning to smoking or turning to the potentially dangerous black market.
Through study of regions with flavour bans, it is clear that these restrictions increase smoking in both youth and adult demographics. For example, San Francisco’s ban on flavored tobacco product sales was associated with increased smoking among minor high school students relative to other school districts. “While the policy applied to all tobacco products, its outcome was likely greater for youths who vaped than those who smoked due to higher rates of flavored tobacco use among those who vaped.”
Additionally, the release of Nova Scotia’s Public Accounts details a 5.6% increase in cigarette sales following the province’s ban on flavoured vapes, with the provinces newly implemented vape tax falling approximately $500,000 short of projections. Commentary on the tax observes that this was due to an increase in cigarette consumption and a decline in vape product consumption.
“Vaping regulation is a complex issue. The problem with taking a micro view to regulation and forming policy based on individual studies, is the bigger picture is neglected. If we take this study at face value and assume the conclusion is accurate and less youth are vaping, on the surface it seems like this type of regulation is logical. Yet, we know from reviewing the full scope of evidence that flavour restrictions result in smoking related illness and death,” said Darryl Tempest, Government Relations Council to the CVA Board.
Youth and non-smokers should not vape, but policy makers must view vaping regulation with standard triage principals. The design of the principles in triage systems is to classify the injured people in order of injury severity, to maintain the survival of the injured and to achieve the most desirable level of health. Preventing death and serious illness should eclipse efforts to reduce nicotine experimentation.
Canadian Vaping Association – 2022-02-15.