Bipartisan lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly have recently proposed House Bill (HB) 22-1064. The measure would ban flavoured tobacco products including vaping and heated tobacco products, menthol cigarettes, hookahs, chewing tobacco, and cigars. Any violators would be subject to similar penalties as retailers caught selling tobacco to minors.

Discussing the measure in Reason, Bentley said that in other ways Colorado has been a leader in trusting adults and unwinding outdated prohibitions. The state has led the way in the legalization of marijuana and the city of Denver decriminalized the possession of magic mushrooms. Sadly, he added, when it comes to nicotine, it seems like an entirely different ballgame.

In line with previous findings, a new study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that banning vape flavours will encourage vapers to return to smoking, whilst creating a huge black market for e-cigarettes. Study author Charles Gardner revealed that 2,159 US respondents aged between 18 and 34, were polled as part of the study and 33% of them would switch back to smoking if flavours were unavailable.

To this effect, concluded the researchers, flavour restrictions may be detrimental rather than beneficial. “Moreover, if vape product sales were restricted to tobacco flavours, 39.1% of users reported being likely to continue using e-cigarettes but 33.2 percent were likely to switch to cigarettes. If vape product sales were entirely restricted, e-cigarette users were equally likely to switch to cigarettes,” said the study.

Real life data

Supporting these findings is another recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, which found that following San Francisco’s flavour ban, teenagers in the city’s high schools were more likely to take up smoking than teenagers in US school districts where no flavour bans were imposed. While prior to the ban, smoking rates in San Francisco were similar to that of many cities across the country.

“To understand this conceptually, think about youth preferences between tobacco products,” said study author Abigail Friedman, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health, in a statement. “Among youths who vape, some likely prefer ENDS to combustible products because of the flavors.”

“For these individuals as well as would-be vapers with similar preferences, banning flavors may remove their primary motivation for choosing vaping over smoking,” she continued. “Thus, some of them will respond to a ban on flavors by choosing to use combustible products instead of ENDS.”

Massachusetts flavour ban

Bentley also referred to data from Massachusetts where such a ban similarly had negative repercussions. “In June 2020, Massachusetts implemented its prohibition of flavored vaping and tobacco products and the results have been disastrous. Lawmakers hoped people would stop smoking and vaping, but, instead, people switched products and sought their favored flavors elsewhere. Sales of non-menthol cigarettes, which are equally as deadly, soared by 15.6 million packs a year in Massachusetts.”

He added that the only thing that decreased in Massachusetts was tax revenue, as consumers looked for their preferred products elsewhere. “In neighboring states, where flavored products were available, cigarette sales surged 22 percent in New Hampshire and 18 percent in Rhode Island. The New England region saw no reduction in cigarette sales, but Massachusetts lost $125 million in tax revenue for the fiscal year 2021 due to the flavor ban, according to the Tax Foundation.”

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