DeWine keeps pushing tobacco flavoring ban as more evidence mounts that bans just don’t work

Posted on Oct 3, 2023

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is a good man who we believe genuinely means well. However, news broke last week of yet more data showing that DeWine’s preferred policy of banning all non-tobacco flavored tobacco and nicotine products in the state, and moreover allowing localities to institute their own equivalent bans, is a bad one. And yet we suspect the Governor is not likely to change his view on this. Via Reason magazine:

Legal restrictions on the flavors of nicotine vaping products are associated with increased cigarette purchases, according to a new paper that analyzes retail sales data from 44 states. For each fewer 0.7-milliliter nicotine pod sold in jurisdictions with such policies, the analysis found, consumers bought 15 more cigarettes. “That tradeoff,” the authors note, “equates to over a pack more cigarettes per pod for the size of current leading products” such as the Vuse Alto, which uses 1.8-milliliter pods.

The substitution effect identified by this study underlines the folly of trying to protect public health by deterring the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), which are far less hazardous than combustible cigarettes. “We find that ENDS flavor policies reduce flavored ENDS sales as intended, but also increase cigarette sales across age groups,” Yale public health researcher Abigail Friedman and her collaborators report. “As cigarettes are much more lethal than ENDS, the high rate of substitution estimated here suggests that, on net, any population health benefits of ENDS flavor policies are likely small or even negative.”

TL;DR: When you ban tobacco flavorings, people smoke actual combustible, deadly cigarettes more.

This is hardly the first data analysis that shows this.

The Yale researcher who produced this study also previously showed that San Francisco’s 2018 flavoring ban doubled the rate of youth smoking of conventional, combustible cancer sticks in San Francisco’s school district: “Analyses found that, after the ban’s implementation, high school students’ odds of smoking conventional cigarettes doubled in San Francisco’s school district relative to trends in districts without the ban, even when adjusting for individual demographics and other tobacco policies.”

University of Memphis research showed that “comprehensive local flavor bans, by themselves, cannot sharply reduce the availability or use of flavored tobacco products among residents. Nevertheless, local bans can still significantly reduce overall e-cigarette use and cigar smoking but may increase cigarette smoking.”
A George Washington University study meanwhile showed that “if vape product sales were restricted to tobacco flavors, 39.1% of users reported being likely to continue using e-cigarettes but 33.2% were likely to switch to cigarettes.” That study was actually published by Oxford University Press. That’s how credible it was/is from a raw academic standpoint!
DeWine likes to buck conventional wisdom in favor of science. Is he actually aware of what the science says here? We tend to assume not.