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Vape Bans Don’t Work

Rice University experts say that vape bans do not work and the Heartland Institute says bans are the wrong approach for Hawaii

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Researchers at Rice University have produced a document highlighting that outright bans are the wrong tool for controlling unwanted vaping behaviour in teen populations. Unintentionally, they also pour cold water on any notion of a gateway from vaping to smoking. The Heartland Institute agrees and says that bans are misguided, especially when the problem has been exaggerated in the first place.

The report “Vaping: Clearing The Air” notes that, despite some claiming vaping is a gateway to smoking, “Cigarette smoking has been steadily declining among middle and high school students for over two decades”.

Authors Katherine Neill Harris and William Martin state: “Vaping has some established advantages over conventional smoking, primarily that it reduces or eliminates the tars and smoke that contribute to various cancers. A review by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found lower toxin exposure associated with e-cigs compared to traditional cigarettes. Smoking contributes to heart disease and can cause and exacerbate long-term hypertension; a study of smokers with hypertension found their blood pressure was lowered when they switched from traditional cigarettes to e-cigs.”

They add: “Two well-regarded reviews, by the Cochrane Collaboration and NASEM, cautiously conclude that there is some evidence that e-cigs can aid in smoking cessation.”

They note: “Bans on vaping products are likely to be harmful and ineffective. Regulations should focus on restricting advertising and sales to minors while maintaining the appeal of vaping as a less harmful alternative for people who smoke.”

The authors added that, “with respect to teen use, it is important to recognise that vaping is consistent with teens’ desire to experiment with mind-altering substances and, like drinking, smoking, having sex and other experimental activities considered risky for adolescents, is a behaviour that can be discouraged but not eliminated.”

Hawaiian lawmakers are choosing to ignore experts and evidence, choosing instead to adopt references to a teen “epidemic” of tobacco use. Having created a fictional threat, they plan on using the doomed approach of bans – despite the report from Neill Harris and Martin.

Hawaii are seeking to ban the sale of flavoured vape products online or from stores, make a criminal out of anybody from eighteen to twenty-one years of age found to be carrying a vape device, and force schools to be responsible for collecting the then illegal devices and liquids. The sense of overkill is compounded by the fact that the 2017 “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” showed only 3.5% of Hawaiian teens vaped.

The Heartland Institute says that data from the California Youth Tobacco Survey found that teen vaping increased after regions of the state banned vaping. One example: “Santa Clara County, California, banned flavoured tobacco product sales to age-restricted stores in 2014. Despite this, youth e-cigarette use increased while the ban was in effect. In the 2015-16 CYTS, 7.5 percent of Santa Clara high school students reported current use of e-cigarettes. In the 2017-18 CYTS, this increased to 10.7 percent.”

Rather than juice flavours, research indicates it is adult smoking behaviour that is the biggest determinant of teen smoking behaviour.

The Heartland Institute writes: “Analysts at the Reason Foundation examined youth tobacco rates and menthol cigarette sales. The authors of the 2020 report found that states ‘with more menthol cigarette consumption relative to all cigarettes have lower rates of child smoking.’ Indeed, the only ‘predictive relationship’ is between child and adult smoking rates, finding that ‘states with higher rates of adult use cause higher rates of youth use’.”

The Heartland Institute concludes: “Lawmakers should refrain from prohibitions that will eliminate harm reduction options for adults. Although addressing youth use of age-restricted products is laudable, flavour bans are ineffective measures to reduce youth e-cigarette and tobacco use. Rather than pushing forward with draconian bans, lawmakers should dedicate more of the existing tobacco monies towards education and prevention programs.”


  • Vaping: Clearing The Air – [link]
  • Flavour ban is wrong policy to reduce Hawaiian youth e-cigarette use – [link]
  • Does Menthol Cigarette Distribution Affect Child or Adult Cigarette Use? – [link]

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Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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