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Heartland Institute says ‘whack-a-mole’ vape laws increase teen smoking rates

Heartland Institute says ‘whack-a-mole’ vape laws increase teen smoking rates

The Heartland Institute claims that lawmakers and public health officials are focusing so zealously on anti-vaping regulations that they are failing to recognize the obvious resulting rise in teen smoking rates.  In fact, there are now more legislative proposals at the local, state, and federal levels aimed at taxing vaping products than those attempting to increase the taxes on combustible tobacco sales.

In a video posted on Facebook,  the libertarian/conservative think tank suggests that this “whack-a-mole” approach to vape regulations is eerily reminiscent of the alcohol prohibition era of the 1920s.  After the U.S. government passed the Eighteen Amendment banning alcohol, alcohol consumption rates across the nation actually increased quite dramatically.  The numbers rose so sharply that lawmakers were eventually forced to issue a legislative repeal by way of the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. 

Heartland says ‘prohibition has never worked’ in America

In a blistering Op-Ed, Heartland Institute’s State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud cites multiple statistical examples of recent escalations in teen smoking rates with simultaneous drops in teen vaping.    She also references a Yale study indicating that statewide bans on vapor products tend to cause smoking rates in 12 to 17 years olds to increase by as much as one percentage point and higher.

“Across the nation, lawmakers seem stuck in a tragic game of whack-a-mole. The more they try to reduce youth vaping, the more they increase youth combustible cigarette smoking. For example, Lancaster County, Nebraska reported a reduction in sales of vaping products to minors ‘from 21.2 percent in 2017 to 5.3 percent in 2018.’ During the same period, non-vaping tobacco product sales to minors increased, from 5.9 to 8.7 percent.”

Stroud goes on to discuss a 2019 vaping study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which indicates that e-cigarettes are twice as effective in helping smokers quit compared to more conventional nicotine replacement therapies.   She also references newly published findings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2019 which indicate that “there are more violations involving sales of cigars and cigarettes to minors than e-cigarettes.” Stroud specifically references the states of Vermont and Washington as typical examples.

“FDA performed 1,029 compliance checks in Vermont from January 1, 2018, to February 1, 2019. Of those, 60 revealed violations of tobacco sales to minors, about 5.8 percent of the total number of compliance checks. Of the violations of sales to minors, 39 involved cigars, 27 involved cigarettes, and only four were sales of e-cigarette products.”
 
“Similarly, of the 6,735 compliance checks conducted in Washington state during the same period, state officials found 743 retailers were in violation of laws against selling a tobacco product to a minor, or 11 percent of all compliance checks. Of those, 286 violations involved sales of cigarettes to minors, 256 involved cigars, and 187 involved sales of e-cigarette products to minors.”
 

Just yesterday, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced that they will be raising the legal purchasing age of tobacco products from 18 to 21.  Coincidentally, the world’s largest retailer is also concurrently banning the sales of all flavored vaping products effective as of July 2019.  Yet Heartland Institute remains hopefully optimistic that, in the end, vaping will prevail because “prohibition has never worked in the United States.”

Related Article: Walmart discontinues flavored vapes; raises legal age on tobacco to 21

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