New Study Finds Ban on E-Cigarettes Increased Sales of Cigs

New Study Finds Ban on E-Cigarettes Increased Sales of Cigs

Banning a valued harm reduction tool can have serious side effects

5 May 2022 | Hannah Rubery

New Study Finds Ban on E-Cigarettes Increased Sales of Cigs (Image)

There have been plenty of talks worldwide surrounding vaping of late. The US and growing numbers of EU countries are beginning to take alarming steps in combatting underage vaping, by banning flavoured E-Liquids and vapes. Some places like Australia have issued outright bans in the hope to curb underage vaping. A move that has the potential to create problems.

Why have there been calls for E-Cigarettes to be banned?

In many countries, there have been worrying trends of teenagers taking up vaping, most notably in the US. And this is not the first time the US has attempted to shut down vaping.

Back in 2020, there was a string of EVALI (E-Cigarette or Vaping, product use-Associated Lung Injury) cases that immediately caused the public and government to panic. At the time they were quick to blame vaping as the root cause of these lung injuries. But extensive inquiries afterwards actually found that the contaminated THC vapes that had been used in these cases, contained Vitamin E Acetate. It’s important to know that these were illegal vapes and that Vitamin E Acetate is not a legal ingredient either. But by this point vaping itself had already received a vastly negative image that has been hard to shift.

Now the blame has shifted with the focus on vaping reportedly targeting children with bright colours and sweet flavours. As such there are now flavour bans being introduced across the US and several other countries have followed in their steps. Would this solve the issue or create something potentially worse?

Potential repercussions and what we’ve seen so far

Many experts had already expressed their concerns about the notion of banning flavours and E-Cigarettes altogether. Considering that vaping was established to help smokers quit, logically by removing this as a viable option for smokers, we’re likely to see an increase in people smoking, and a decrease in those quitting. Here in the UK alone we have seen increased numbers of smokers successfully quitting by using NRTs (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) and even more so when aided by vaping.

So when in 2019, several US states passed short-term bans on sales of ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) in a response to the EVALI outbreak caused by Vitamin E Acetate, a study assessed how cigarette sales were affected. It came as no surprise that in the states that had banned ENDS, sales of cigarettes were significantly higher than would have been observed normally. Massachusetts alone saw an increase of 7.5%. And not only this, but those states that only banned non-tobacco flavoured ENDS saw an increase of 4.6% in cigarette sales.

Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) also conducted a study that found similar results in San Francisco where the ban on flavoured E-Cigarettes had been set in hopes of reducing children from vaping. Instead, they found that after the ban, the odds of students taking up smoking cigarettes had worryingly doubled. This was in comparison to other school districts prior to the ban, where smoking rates were seen to be declining.

It is widely acknowledged that vaping offers far less harmful than cigarette smoking, and it is not suggested that vaping is completely harmless. Therefore, E-Cigarettes should only be used by those who have smoked or currently smoke and are looking to quit.

There is potential that these laws are likely to create black-market demand, a worrying notion that could see the introduction of vaping products that are not safe, or as these studies suggest, a potential to increase youth smoking.

Smoking vs vaping (Image)

The disparity between US and UK vaping

How come we don’t see this problem in the UK? It all boils down to focus. In the UK, we focus on vaping as a means of quitting smoking. Marketing is limited and regulations are tight to ensure that products are safe, compliant, and reaching the right people. In the US, regulations before the bans were much more lax meaning there was little to no regulation on nicotine strengths, ingredients used and marketing (where children would be able to see vaping products).

When we talk about how the challenges of vaping are met, again this is down to focus. In the US, the focus is more on the potential harm vaping can create, the problem of adolescent vaping and using vaping as a gateway to smoking. Due to this focus, the US imposes blanket bans on flavours and in some cases, E-Cigarettes altogether.

Whereas in the UK, our reported numbers of underage vaping are much less, likely due to our regulations, but despite this, the UK’s focus is on vaping is much less harmful than traditional smoking. With this in mind, how the UK is handling the small number of underage vaping is also different to the US.

In recent months we have seen increasing numbers of raids and pushes for vape stores to be vigilant when selling vapes to avoid such products falling into under-age hands. Rather than impacting the vaping community as a whole and potentially harming those using vaping to quit smoking. This is likely to do with the UK’s firm standpoint that vaping is much less harmful than cigarette smoking and is proving to be a useful method for smoking cessation.

What do you think about all of this? Should vaping undergo tighter restrictions? Should more countries follow the UK’s standards when it comes to vaping? Keep up to date with the vaping world and more here at Pod Salt.