The AG of Iowa, along with four respected public health experts, write a formal letter to the FDA petitioning their stance on e-liquid flavors
The Attorney General for the state of Iowa, Tom Miller, worked in conjunction with several renowned public health experts to write a letter to the FDA commissioner calling into question the motives and goals behind their potential flavor ban. The FDA made some marked strides in their handling of vaping last year, specifically by delaying the deeming rules until 2022. But many are still concerned they will soon move to ban any e-liquid flavors other than tobacco and menthol. This would be another step toward treating vaping and smoking as the same, something experts say is at the root of the vaping rights issue.
The team that worked with AG Miller was made up of tobacco control experts from around the world. Clive Bates is the former directors of the UK’s Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), while Dr. David Sweanor works in the Center for Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the University of Toronto. Those two along with Dr. David Abrams and Dr. Raymond Niaura of the NYU College of Global Public Health helped AG Miller write the scathing criticism of a potential change in policy.
Letter To The FDA
The letter urges the FDA to take the time to thoroughly analyze the data before making such a drastic choice. They believe that the concerns over flavors, like those expressed in a 2016 Surgeon General’s report are “overly simplistic.” Those claims centered around the idea that flavors are mainly a way to get more people, especially children hooked on vaping. But most of the evidence indicating a correlation between e-liquid flavors and adoption by teens is purely anecdotal. Instead, AG Miller thinks that we must adequately consider and test the possibility that the wide variety of flavors is useful in the fight against smoking. They even went as far as to suggest that vaping may actually be a tool for getting and keeping kids off tobacco. Most of all they pleaded for consideration of the facts as opposed to a knee-jerk emotional response. After all, if e-cigarettes are actually that much safer than smoking, the flavors could prove to be a vital part of their effectiveness.
With a potential flavor ban looming, many people are wondering how such a decision would play out for consumers. Clive Bates answered this question in a post on his personal blog, claiming there are three main options for the FDA to take. First, they could argue that all of the flavored e-liquids are harmful and should be banned. Second, they could make the case that certain flavors are more attractive to younger people and therefore should be limited. Thirdly, they could simply restrict the way in which manufacturers are allowed to market their products, such as banning the use of candy or dessert names. If they choose to ban flavors in any capacity, it will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the future of vaping in America.
Debunking Increased Teenage Risk
The primary concern of most people when they discuss banning e-liquid flavors is their appeal to the youth. While it’s important to ensure the safety of children, is there actually anything to worry about? Most of those who support a flavor ban see them as directly attracting non-smoking teens to vaping, but the peer-reviewed research on the topic suggests otherwise. A study published last year by Public Health England looked at data from over 60,000 teens between the ages of 11-16. They found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens regularly used e-cigarettes.
In fact, the only studies that support a connection between vaping and picking up smoking for the first time are small-scale and questionable. That’s why extensive studies, like PHE’s, are so relevant in understanding this issue. Studies that take a look at a broader section of the population clearly indicate that the vast majority of teenage vapers had previously been smokers. If this is eventually proven correct, it would only show that vaping is serving its intended purpose for teens as well as adults.
The fear that flavored e-liquids will lead to more teenage smoking is a serious issue for many Americans. After all, it does seem suspect that so many flavors of e-liquid are based on things like candy. But many vapers who have successfully made the switch from smoking to vaping reference the wide variety of flavors as a significant piece of the puzzle. While it’s true that candy flavors can be particularly attractive to children, the fact remains that people of all ages desire sweet and delicious foods. So it appears that these sugary flavors aren’t so much aimed at teens as they are catering to the tastes of candy-loving adults.
We all agree that smoking is one of the absolute worst things that you can do for the health of you and your family. So why are we considering action that would limit the success of one of the best smoking cessation tools we have? If we ban all flavors except tobacco and menthol, then current smokers will see even less of a reason to attempt a switch. The general public already has an abysmal understanding of the real risks of vaping compared with smoking, and banning flavors would only further limit the number of people attempting to make the switch. If we want to stop smoking once and for all, we must keep the wide variety of e-liquid flavor options intact.
Do you think that e-liquid flavors should be regulated, if so how much? Do you think there’s another reason the FDA wants to ban e-liquid flavors? How can we better support the research that proves the usefulness of vaping as a smoking cessation tool? Let us know in the comments.