The study was conducted to understand better what a flavor ban would actually mean for the industry
Since e-cigarettes were first introduced, the FDA has been concerned with how these products might affect the public and their overall health. In spite of the growing number of respected and peer-reviewed studies that revere vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, ominously announced a probe into flavored tobacco products, e-liquids included. The FDA states this 90-day examination, ending June 19th, 2018, will be taking input from the public on what their course of action should be. It is a widespread fear in the vaping community that if there is not enough input from the public the FDA may ban all e-liquid flavors other than traditional tobacco.
A professor at Yale, Dr. John Buckell, decided to survey vapers to analyze the real world effects that flavoring has on the effectiveness of vaping as a smoking cessation tool. His findings were that flavored e-liquids are a significant part of helping smokers to quit and that they contribute to maintaining the decline in smoking rates across the country. According to his work, a ban on flavors would not lead to a decrease in tobacco sales, but instead an increase in sales of traditional tobacco products like cigarettes.
Dr. Buckell lead the team at Yale, whose study was published in The National Bureau of Economic Research. The study is called Should Flavors be Banned in E-Cigarettes?: Evidence on Adult Smokers and Recent Quitters from a Discrete Choice Experiment. Researchers interviewed over 2000 vapers and former smokers with a study designed to see what sort of effect on tobacco and vaping that this possible flavor ban could have. Subjects were interviewed about certain aspects of their habits and how they feel it would be affected by a ban.
Having collected the data, researchers started finding patterns. The team was able to project these trends into possible outcomes for the ban. If menthol-flavored cigarettes and e-liquids were banned then traditional tobacco sales would increase 3%. If only menthol cigarettes were banned, and e-liquids were left off the ban, then Dr. Buckell projects tobacco sales would drop 5%. This indicates that by grouping e-liquids in with flavored cigarettes, Big Tobacco is likely to benefit from the ban instead of suffering a significant decrease in sales.
What We Can Do
What Dr. Buckell’s team proves in their research is that placing a flavor ban on e-liquids could be highly detrimental to public health. The FDA will be accepting public input on the potential ban until June 19, 2018. You can submit your opinion in support of e-liquids and vaping until then, so make these last few weeks count. You may also consider making a call to your local congressman or senator. The best thing to do right now is to form a united front and show the FDA all the positives that come out of vaping.
Tobacco experts Dr. Farsalinos and Dr. Poulas are working to collect data to submit to the FDA as well. Filling out their 20-minute survey online would also serve to show the FDA objections to the flavor ban. Taking the anonymous poll can help support the Doctors’ argument in support of e-liquid sales and explain just how influential flavors can be on our journeys from smokers to vapers. The June 19th deadline is fast approaching, and it is critical that as many vapers as possible share their story and voice their opinions.
What we learn from Dr. Buckell’s team and their research is that if this potential ban targets e-liquids, it would likely increase tobacco sales, ultimately helping Big Tobacco. While the FDA’s intentions are for the good of public health research shows that their primary concern only has a tiny effect on the overall public health. This research indicates that by banning flavors they may be encouraging, not just teens, but former smokers to return to traditional cigarettes. We know, thanks to research by Public Health England, that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking combustible cigarettes. It should be encouraged as a cessation tool.
There are also more insidious results of a flavor ban. Tobacco companies have long seen their eventual demise coming as the smoking population continues its steady decline. Companies like Phillip Morris are planning to move beyond traditional cigarettes, even stating that they plan on ending production of combustible cigarettes soon.
If that is the case, and the ban is enacted, then these companies would make themselves more viable in the alternative smoking market. They’re already starting with products like PMI’s iQOS, a smokeless tobacco device. Taking away one of the most significant advantages the vaping industry has would make it infinitely easier for Big Tobacco to control the market. It is critical now more than ever that vapers with positive experiences and beneficial things to say about these products join together to let the FDA know; directly, through your representatives, or through Dr. Farsalino’s Survey, that flavors are essential to us. If we want vaping to continue as it’s been, then we have to prove it to them first.
Do you think the FDA’s flavor ban is a good idea? Will the Yale study help make vaping more viable? Do you feel compelled to take one of the surveys, if not why? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.