August 17, 2023

Positive Effects of Banning Flavored Tobacco on Public Health

Many people use flavored tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes, mint and wintergreen moist snuff, flavored cigars and pipe tobacco. Flavor bans can lead to immediate public health gains by helping smokers quit and also reduce tobacco initiation rates. However, these gains are often offset by smuggling and other challenges.

They are Addictive
Big Tobacco knows that fun flavors attract and hook youth on tobacco products, making it harder for them to quit. That's why they use fruit, candy and cocktail flavors in colorful packaging on e-cigarettes, smokeless Tobacco, cigars and hookah. These products often have lower nicotine levels than cigarettes, making them more appealing to youth and young adults. The Food and Drug Administration already bans flavors in menthol cigarettes, but it's time to go further.

In addition to federal policies, state and local governments should consider restricting flavored tobacco product sales. More research needs to be done into how flavors affect the brain's reward pathways. Future regulations should be mindful of the potential that some flavors may enhance the rewarding effects of low-dose nicotine, facilitating the transition to higher doses and eventual addiction. Also, studies need to be conducted on whether the chemicals used in flavored tobacco products make quitting harder.

They are Less Expensive
Countries with tobacco flavor bans have seen a drop in smoking rates and improved quit rates among those who still use flavored products. Some countries have begun restricting menthol cigarettes, while others have banned flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes. Some also have limited flavored tobacco accessories, like filters, capsules and cards. Big Tobacco knows that kids will be drawn to flavored Tobacco and vaping products, often sold in sweet and candy-like packaging. They are designed to attract first-time youth users and hook them on lifelong addiction. States have billions from taxes and settlements with tobacco companies they could use to prevent youth smoking, but right now, they spend only a small percentage of those dollars on such efforts.

Flavor bans reduce tobacco and e-cigarette sales, which lowers profits for manufacturers. As a result, they often pass these costs on to consumers by raising the price of flavored products. It makes the products less attractive to smokers, especially young ones and may drive them to switch to unflavored cigarettes or to purchase flavored devices illegally. Citywide bans on the sale of flavored Tobacco and e-cigarettes decimate local businesses that depend on those sales. They will also make it harder for adults to quit smoking by removing the option that is most likely to work for them.

They are a gateway to smoking.
A large number of youths who are currently using tobacco products began with flavored tobacco products. Research suggests that removing flavored Tobacco from the market may reduce youth uptake of all tobacco products. The FDA is currently working to remove menthol from the market as a part of its ongoing efforts to reduce tobacco use. Several states and localities have banned flavored cigarettes or other combusted tobacco products. While the short-term data on cigarette flavor bans shows promise, more evidence is needed to determine whether these policies will be successful in helping smokers quit and avoid the health consequences of smoking. It includes assessing whether some youths switch to other flavored tobacco products and whether retailers and industries exploit loopholes in the law.

Efforts to implement and evaluate flavored tobacco bans must include measures at the state and local levels. For example, introducing or promoting proven quit-smoking services when flavor restrictions are introduced could help prevent some flavored tobacco users from simply switching to other flavored Tobacco or combusted products. Further, a more comprehensive flavor ban that includes flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products and restricting the sale of flavored tobacco accessories (such as flavored filters and capsules) would limit some opportunities for the industry to exploit loopholes.

They are Marketed to Kids
Using flavored tobacco products attracts kids and young adults and makes it easier for them to start smoking. Flavors mask the harshness and addictiveness of Tobacco, making it more appealing. The tobacco industry markets its flavored products to youth with colorful packaging, names and logos that mimic popular candy brands and celebrities. They place them in kid-friendly locations at convenience stores, often near candy, and sell them for kid-friendly prices.

The tobacco industry has a history of promoting misleading science to support their commercial interests, as in 2021 when they announced data suggesting that San Francisco's flavored tobacco ban led to higher high school smoking rates. However, the underlying YRBSS data predated the city's ban enforcement and did not include tobacco retailers who complied with the ban. Even when states and localities prohibit flavored tobacco sales, the tobacco industry markets them in neighboring towns or states. The federal government must take action to end the sale of flavored Tobacco at the national level to protect our kids and create the first generation free from this deadly addiction. Until then, city leaders must take action to pass a flavored tobacco sales ban.

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