Another flavour ban but smoking rates drop in USA

USA flag

In America, several states have now enforced a ban of all flavoured vape juices, with a few more states joining the pre existing ones as recently as January of this year. And now we are in 2023, another state in the USA has announced their intentions to enforce a ban on flavoured tobacco products. Their reasoning for banning flavoured “tobacco” products is a move in the right direction to prevent adolescents and underage users being exposed to vaping products that are “designed purposefully to be appealing to a younger audience”

But what is interesting is that a recent study has been published this year, looking at teen smoking and vaping rates in the state of Minnesota, which shows that the numbers are declining without the need for a ban, and also in turn proving the statement of vaping being a “gateway” as a wrongful statement. In this article, I’m going to take a look at why Maine is pushing for a flavour ban, what other states they will join if they are successful with their proposals, and how Minnesota’s numbers of youths vaping are declining without any form of intervention from the state.

Maine becomes the latest state to propose a vape juice flavour ban

With only 11 days having passed in the new year of 2023, there has already been votes made and proposals written up calling for a state wide vape juice flavour ban in another state in the USA.

Recently, four individual cities in the state of Maine, USA have voted in favour of a ban on “flavoured tobacco products” within their cities, and this has now prompted government officials to write up a proposal and put forward for a state-wide blanket ban on the sale of these products.

Portland, Brunswick and Bangor already proposed a ban within the states, and now South Portland is the latest city to join in favour of the ban, with a city exclusive vote made by the councillors in charge, with the final result being a 5-2 vote in favour of yes to banning flavoured vape juice in the city.

It’s a surprise that South Portland have not enacted this proposal sooner as back in 2019, there was a massive uproar in the city after a Vape store opened up a bricks and mortar store opposite a middle school in October 2018, which was considered a mindless business tactic at the time due to America then being embroiled in the well known “youth vaping epidemic” which saw numbers of high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes, most notably JUUL products, sky rocket to alarming numbers.

Speaking at the meeting where the vote was cast, Councillor Misha Pride said:

“I feel very strongly that we are allowing poison to be sold on the shelves of our stores to children and young adults. We have to do something that shows our kids we care about them.”

Mayor Katherine Lewis joined in the yes vote as well as 3 other Councillors, whilst Councillors Cohen and Matthews voted against this ban being imposed. Councillor Cohen deemed the ban unfair to local store owners who do not sell flavoured vaping products to children, and the actions of others are penalising them. And the fact that the patrons of the city will just simply find alternative methods to obtain their flavoured vape juice by simply travelling to another neighbouring state where it is not banned.

This is something I’ve previously reported on where a neighbouring state has profited from their neighbours banning flavoured vape products by the patrons simply crossing over and purchasing what they need there.

Some other very strong comments towards this were made by the pro-ban campaigners (who were not part of the voting process) with Dr Laura Blaisdell, a paediatrician, saying

“I want to live in a community where cotton candy is for kids, and not in a tobacco product”

and Mike Friedland, a parent in South Portland said

“It feels predatory having flavours that children are attracted to”

As mentioned, if the vote for a state wide ban is successful, Maine will be joining 7 other states, and 360 cities and counties in the country of America that have fully banned flavoured vape juice from sale. But the big question is, do the bans really work? Let’s take a look

ban on flavours

Flavour bans aren’t the right way to go about things

As I’ve previously discussed in a separate article, I personally believe flavour bans just do not work and simply cause problems to vapers who lean heavily on flavoured vape juice to keep them from relapsing to going back to cigarettes.

An independent study was carried out which looked into the state of San Fransisco where flavoured vape juice has been banned for quite some time now, and the results of the study made for concerning reading. The study was conducted by asking 247 people all aged between 18-34 who admitted they used tobacco products previously, and questions were asked in relation to their use of tobacco products both before and after the ban had been implemented.

The prevalence of overall flavoured tobacco use decreased from 81% and 85% to 69% and 76% for 18–24 years and 25–34 years old. The prevalence of flavoured e-cigarettes decreased from 57% and 56% to 45% and 48% for 18–24 years and 25–34 years old.

However, cigarette smoking saw an increase, although it was not statistically significant among 25–34 years old. 66% of participants did not support the ban and 65% believed the ban had not been enforced completely. And most notably, as what could be predicted would happen, most users reported being able to obtain flavoured tobacco products in multiple ways despite the ban being imposed.

I mentioned above, and I’ll mention it again, that people just find loopholes and ways to get round the ban, most commonly by just travelling to a nearby state where flavours are not banned and stocking up before returning back to their native state.

The fact that this study also confirmed that smoking prevalence had increased since the ban was imposed is worrying, and whilst it may be done for the best interest of stopping youths from vaping, it will cause more problems for the state’s healthcare system by smokers being admitted or seeking healthcare to contracting a smoking related disease, something that isn’t caused by people vaping.

Minnesota youth vaping figures decline as does smoking prevalence

To conclude this article, whilst still keeping in line with the youth vaping topic, I want to discuss the recent reports coming out of the state of Minnesota which shows that youth vaping numbers have started to drastically decline all by themselves with no interventions or chat of flavour bans happening.

The Minnesota Student Survey that was carried out in late 2022 reported promising declines in youth vaping statistics. 6% of 8th graders, 7% of 9th graders, and 14% of 11th graders admitting to using an e-cigarette of any kind in the previous month from the time of survey. To give you an insight of how big the decrease is, these equated to a 45.5%, 56.3%, and 46.2% decrease respectively, between 2019 and 2022.

In 2018, 15.1% of Minnesotans reported to being current smokers, and by the year 2020 this number had dropped to 13.8%. A fantastic result seeing a small, yet significant decrease. These also reflect the national smoking statistics for the entirety of the USA which has dropped from 21.2% in 2011 to 15.5% in 2020. The only “downside” to this, is that vaping prevalence remains at a firm 5% in the state, which is unchanged from 2018. A shame because I would have liked to have seen this number grow a bit more, but at least it has not declined!

Vaping being a “gateway to smoking” quashed yet again

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, there’s always been belief by anti-vaping campaigners that vaping is a gateway to smoking, especially to youths and adolescents who are experimenting with e-cigarettes at an earlier age.

But these statistics from Minnesota is yet again more proof that it is in fact, not true and vaping does not create a gateway to vaping. The tell-tale sign is the fact that vaping prevalence has gone down, and so has smoking prevalence as well. If this was causing a gateway, Minnesota would have seen a rise in the number of smokers with the number of vapers going down due to conversion. But instead, both categories have seen a rapid decline in the right direction, and these believers of the gateway theory have yet again been proven wrong.

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