SAFE Kids Act
Diane DeGette (D-Colorado), has introduced legislation that would ban e-cigarette flavors on a national level. The Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids or Safe Kids act, would ban “kid-friendly” flavors within a year unless e-juice manufacturers can prove that these flavorings are being developed to help adults stop smoking cigarettes.
With Juul's partner Altria in favor of a flavor ban, the prospects for the e-juice industry are looking grim.
It is a shame that DeGette has not familiarized herself with Dr. Konstantino Farsalino’s study of 69,000 adult vapers. Farsalino conclusively demonstrated that fruit and dessert flavors are favored by a solid majority of adult vapers.
Tutti Frutti Is the Bee’s Knees, Daddy-O!
DeGette describes the bill on her website as, “Legislation (that) would ban sale of kid-friendly nicotine flavors - such as ‘cotton candy’ and ‘tutti fruitti’ - in U.S.”
The e-juice flavor names she chose to highlight are telling. They only make sense for products being marketed to adults. At 61 years of age, she was born just after the release of the song Tutti Frutti. It is likely that Cotton Candy and Tutti Fruit would have appealed to DeGette during her formative years. Perhaps she even enjoyed Nilla Wafers, an example cited by the FDA during their retro packaging crackdown last year, while watching the moon landing.
Retro E-Juices Are Marketed to Adult Vapers
In much the same way, Sour Patch Kids and sugary themed breakfast cereal flavors appeal to older millennials and Gen Xers. Retro e-juice names and flavors are designed to appeal to nostalgic adult vapers. Thanks to Spotify, today’s youth may be familiar with the song Tutti Frutti, both the Elvis and Little Richard versions. They may even be familiar with the Jelly Belly flavor named after the song. But the name Tutti Frutti simply does not resonate with today's youth in the same way it did with kids in the 1950s and early 1960s. It is not a cultural touchstone in 2019, nor was it trending hard in 1989 or even 1969.
If I was hoping to parody the unfortunate obsession with retro packaging, I could not have come up with more ridiculous examples than Tutti Frutti and Cotton Candy. Unfortunately, DeGette is dead serious
The reason that sweet and sugary themes are prevalent is that these are the flavors that adult vapers demand. Surveys have shown that there are literally tens of thousands of e-juices competing for market share. An easy way to stand out is to engineer an e-juices flavor profile to resemble a popular candy, beverage or cereal. Skittles themed packaging simply has more pop than a grocery list of items from the fruit aisle.
Would the same outcry exist if savory flavors were preferred by adult vapers? Would the FDA crackdown on e-juice boxes that resemble Manischewitz Gefilte Fish jars, Vlasic Pickle Jars and bottles of French’s mustard. Blame the irrationality of the masses or taste buds stunted by cigarettes, but mustard and jarred fish are not the flavors that ex-smokers prefer to vape. Tobacco and menthol e-juices are often preferred by the heaviest ex-smokers, but the majority of adult vapers are averse to these flavors as well.
The wisdom of creating ejuice packaging that resembles an edible food is legitimate. To miss the obvious fact that many moons, and moon landings, have passed since these sugary treats were the go-to for school age children is problematic.
It is unfair to assume that fruit flavor fallacy advocates are being intentionally obtuse. It is hard to admit that time marches on and what was cool when you were a youth will be largely cast aside by the time your children and grandchildren reach adolescence.
The Legacy of Scott Gottlieb
We have long argued that what has been painted as a teen vaping epidemic poses an existential threat to the vaping industry. The Legacy of Scott Gottlieb, departing FDA commissioner, will be his crusade against e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, millions of adult smokers looking for a satisfying alternative to combustible cigarettes will be harmed by his quest to stamp out nicotine use by minors.
Eliminating vaping among high school students is a worthy goal. But it is more effectively addressed with education and age verification. These are the same methods which slashed teen smoking from 24.6 percent in 1997 to 5.5 percent in 2015.
Prohibition has a long track record of failing in the United States. It is ironic that e-cig prohibition has been proposed in California, and it is a Colorado politician proposing harsh restrictions on legal nicotine. Both of these states have been at the forefront of marijuana decriminalization.
At Vapor4Life, minors are not welcome. We have no interest in selling our products to teenagers and use Veradad, an industry leading age verification system, on our e-Commerce sight. Anyone entering our Northbrook vape shop is carded. Our goal is to provide a satisfying alternative to adult smokers.
E-Cigarette Restrictions Harm Marginalized Groups
Vaping is low-hanging fruit for regulators and politicians looking to score easy points and reduce risky behavior in minors. Vaping is an easy target because smokers and vapers are not heavily represented in middle and upper income brackets, whereas drinking rates are highest among educated, high-income adults.
This explains why there is no call to ban alcohol (again), despite the fact that 13.5 percent of high school students binge drink versus the 2.4 percent who use electronic vapor products daily.
The wealthy have largely given up smoking. A CDC’s study, “Cigarette Smoking and Tobacco Use Among People of Low Socioeconomic Status” outlined the disproportionate impact that smoking has on the less affluent.
Adults with less than a high school education succeed in quitting cigarettes only 43.5 percent of the time versus 73.9 percent for college graduates. Adults earning more than twice the poverty line are only half as likely to smoke as adults living below the poverty line.
It is an unpleasant truth for anti-vapers who are hell bent on eliminating nicotine consumption in children, but strict e-cig laws harm marginalized groups.
Smoking Alternatives in the African American Community
The CDC’s own numbers show that African American smokers smoke fewer cigarettes, attempt to quit more frequently and have less success at quitting than their White and Hispanic counterparts. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health studied racial and ethnic differences among e-cigarette users. What they discovered was that African Americans were more likely to embrace e-cigarettes as a cessation aid than Whites and Hispanics and inclined to avoid the dual use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
This study operated under the premise that “evidence based” methods such as nicotine replacement therapy were more effective than e-cigarettes and switching from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes was not a form of cessation. This belief was demolished by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). This high impact study found that e-cigarettes were about twice as effective for smoking cessation than nicotine replacement therapy.
In pursuit of their puritanical gold-standard of total nicotine abstinence, the study’s authors engaged in some serious mental gymnastics. Their attempts to explain away the general skepticism about nicotine replacement and the widespread embrace of e-cigarettes by the African Americans surveyed was particularly flimsy.
In light of the study published in the NEJM, it is time to revisit how these results were interpreted. Although it was not the purpose of either study, they illustrate the negative impact that e-cig bans can have on the African American community.
Vaping and the LGBT Community
Why does DeGette, a founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, support a measures that would undermine the health of the LGBTQ community? There is no community where vaping is more common than the LGBTQ. Government studies found that the census identified LGBT population in the US is three times more likely to use electronic cigarettes: 7.5 percent versus 2.6 percent. This is the highest rate for any group surveyed.
A CDC study found 20.3 percent of adults that identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual smoke cigarettes, versus an overall rate of 14 percent. Smoking kills over 30,000 members of the LGBTQ community annually and leads significant health disparities.
Smoking rates among the transgendered have been estimated at over 80 percent and studies have tied this to structural discrimination. Bisexual women are over twice as likely to smoke as heterosexual women. Does DeGette realize she is denying cigarette alternatives to a group that she claims to champion?
Rural America Denied Smoking Alternatives
With her district anchored in urban Denver, perhaps the plight of the rural American smoker is not of as much concern. But it should be noted that similar smoking trends are prevalent in rural and poor areas. Lung cancer rates are far higher and a lack of access to health care is blamed. An FDA ban of e-cigarettes from gas stations will heavily impact availability in rural areas where there is not a large enough population base to support vape shops. There is no reason to compound smoking health disparities by denying ash and smoke free alternatives.
The UK as a Model
It is a different story on the other side of the pond. The UK is far ahead of the US when it comes to promoting harm reduction. Keep in mind that the NHS is funded by taxpayers and has skin in the game. If vaping did not work, they would not support it. They recently pulled the plug on homeopathy and herbal medicines because of efficacy concerns.
The official NHS stance on e-cigarettes is humane and rational:
An estimated 2.9 million adults in Great Britain currently use e-cigarettes and of these, 1.5 million people have completely stopped smoking cigarettes. They carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes and can be particularly effective when combined with extra quitting support.
Public Health England, an executive agency in the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, found vaping to be 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. The London Fire Brigade endorsed e-cigs as an alternative to traditional cigarettes after determining that vaping prevents house fires.
The UK has outperformed EU countries in smoking cessation. They credit their scientific based approach to e-cigarettes and argue that countless lives could be saved if other countries were willing to follow their lead. It remains to be seen if the US will ever follow suit. But the numbers suggest that marginalized smokers would benefit the most from an about-face.
If Flavors Aren't to Blame Then What Is?
Could there have been other technological developments behind the increase in teen’s vaping? Rather than being lured in by flavor names that resonate with the 40 and over crowd, could the innovation of discrete, concealable and highly potent nicotine delivery systems have played a role? Unfortunately, this line of inquiry probably won’t be pursued by vaping industry giant Juul, whose partner Altria opposes restrictions on menthol cigarettes while at the same time is all for an e-juice flavor ban.