FDA Flavor Ban: Good News For Big Tobacco, Bad News For Tennesseans

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Now that the Food and Drug Agency is openly threatening to ban vape flavors, we can confirm the only winners of such a policy will be Big Tobacco companies. Don’t believe me? Earlier this month, the FDA warned the five biggest American manufacturers of vape products that the agency may impose a flavor ban on their industry. 

The next day, the stock of major cigarette producers shot up. According to the AP, British American Tobacco had the biggest one-day percentage gain in almost a decade.

The FDA is giving e-cigarette makers 60 days to come up with a plan to stem an alleged teen vape epidemic. If they do not appease the regulators, a flavor ban is a real possibility.

First and foremost, vape products are for adult smokers only. This is already the law in the U.S. and authorities should make it clear that those who market or sell to minors will face the full force of the law. 

A flavor ban spells good news for Big Tobacco— and bad news for the rest of us.

That’s because for many former smokers, like myself, vaping has been the best alternative that enabled us to quit smoking for good. The power of customer choice of flavor has been a big part of that story. Recently, the FDA requested comments on vape flavors and received thousands of comments like these:

“Without flavors I would have never enjoyed the freedom to leave tobacco behind. I've been smoke free for four years now (smoked for 20).”  

“I smoked for 18 years and Vaping with flavors helped me quit where all other methods (patch, pill, lozenges) failed repeatedly.” 

“I smoked for 30+ years. If I wasn’t vaping I would still be smoking and my health would be a lot worse...I have no desire to smoke another cigarette.” -Shelby McKee from Greenback, TN (sent in a video to the TSFA on why the FDA should not ban flavors) 

If we ban vape flavors entirely we are doing more than “narrowing the off-ramp” for adult smokers, as FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called it. We are closing the gate entirely. For many who have tried quitting multiple times, but have been unable to be successful, vaping can finally provide a harm-reducing alternative. 

Other countries are recognizing this reality and leaning in to it. A study by Public Health England (PHE) showed vaping— or e-cigarette usage— is 95 percent less harmful than smoking. This respected public health agency is working hard to address to misinformation surrounding vaping. 

John Newton, director for Health Improvement at PHE said, ”It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.” 

The U.S. should ensure consumer choice continues to exist for adult smokers seeking to quit— and work to prevent youth from ever starting. Let’s not prematurely buy into a false dichotomy.  

Instead of a blanket ban on flavors, we can and should pursue sensible regulation, which has also been proposed in Congress — and supported by the vaping industry—  to protect youth and establish attainable product standards.  

It should be a win-win. Let’s work together to ensure adult smokers maintain access to lower-risk alternatives that can help them reduce harm to their health.  

Dimitris Agrafiotis
Executive Director
Tennessee Smoke Free Association


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