[The following is based on testimony to be delivered by Dr. Abrams before the NYC City Council Committee on Health on January 30, 2019. The committee is considering legislation to ban the sale of all e-cigarettes with characterizing flavors.]
I’m a professor at the NYU College of Global Public Health. I speak for myself and I have no financial disclosures.
I urge you to oppose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Millions of smokers have already quit smoking with vaping. And many cite flavors as vital in switching completely from inhaling toxic tobacco smoke.* This proposed policy would place particular burdens on those smokers with social disadvantage and other challenges by limiting their access to much less harmful alternatives.
Scientists change their minds when new evidence is available. I know this first hand: I was wrong about e-cigarettes.
I shared the concerns of many here.
But as I reviewed the mounting research, the evidence clearly shows vaping—while not harmless— presents a fraction of the risk of smoking. I changed my mind.
We don’t know everything about vaping. But we know more than enough to recommend smokers who still seek nicotine should switch completely away from combustible products.
But smokers who don’t know vaping is less harmful are less likely to switch. Fewer than one in five understands vaping is less harmful than smoking. I fear flavor bans will worsen confusion and make it harder for smokers to switch. We need to do more to correct these misperceptions, not make them even worse.
I, too, want to protect youth. NYC is already doing so, having banned flavored cigars and purchase of all tobacco to those under 21.
Parental smoking is a major risk factor for youth smoking. This bill would make it harder for smokers to quit, unintentionally increasing risk for youth as more children will grow up in families with parents who smoke. This may seem counterintuitive, but if policymakers could rely on intuition, you wouldn’t need science or scientists like me to improve your policies.
Don’t place barriers between smokers and vaping products that could save their lives and protect their children from smoking.
* Farsalinos, K. E., Romagna, G., Tsiapras, D., Kyrzopoulos, S., Spyrou, A., & Voudris, V. (2013). Impact of Flavour Variability on Electronic Cigarette Use Experience: An Internet Survey. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(12), 7272–7282.
E-liquids photo via Vaping360