Predictably, depressingly, the US anti-vaping lobby has mobilised against a new Cole-Bishop Bill, HR 1136 that would hold off near complete destruction of the industry by grossly disproportionate FDA deeming regulation and implement the first steps in a sensible reshaping of American tobacco policy. But look at the argument they used.
“By working on what purports to be a technical change, “ Myers said, “ it leaves on the market the candy and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes that are so popular among young people.”
“You can put any gloss on it you want, this is the tobacco industry’s effort to continue to market flavored tobacco products to hook another generation of kids.
You hear this narrative a lot: regulators protecting kids from industry predators bearing flavours as bait. But I just wonder whether the anti-vaping activists have paused to even think about flavours and teens at all. Or even if they care.
To evaluate the demand to regulate these flavours (by which they mean ban them) you first need a framework for thinking about the issue – and that is not simple and may yield surprises.
Here is how I would think about this…
- What is the issue: flavour or descriptor?
- What are real youth preferences?
- Is the strength of flavour attraction sufficient to change behaviour?
- What is the pathway by which a flavour can ultimately cause harm?
- Has the possible protective effect of e-cigarette flavours on youth been considered?
- What about the possible harm to adults?
- How should the balance of risks and benefits be weighed?
- Is mention of the tobacco industry just an emotive trick?
- Do flavour bans come with harmful consequences?