The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday issued regulatory guidance banning the sale of many flavored vapor products, with an exception for menthol and tobacco flavors. The administration's misguided decision is terrible news for the millions of consumers who have used flavored products to transition away from traditional tobacco. While we do not support this action, it is certainly better than other alternatives considered by the Trump administration and his FDA.
In prior years, FDA had welcomed tobacco harm reduction and innovative, market-driven solutions to help people quit smoking cigarettes. Due to the availability of e-cigarettes and vapor, along with a wide variety of flavors, fewer Americans are smoking and more Americans are quitting than ever before. The administration believes that young people are drawn to vapor products due to the many different flavors, despite studies that show the importance of flavors to consumers in the midst of kicking their habit.
However, banning most flavors has the potential to upend all the public health gains made over the last few years. While alternative products are by no means completely risk free, they do appear to have less risk than smoking cigarettes and other traditional methods of nicotine delivery. Tobacco harm reduction is based on a reasonable premise that there are significant benefits (for individual health, government health care programs, and the economy) to providing smokers with innovative alternative means of getting the nicotine they desire. NTU has long fought for individual freedom and free market policies, and we know all too well that blanket prohibitions or schemes are seldom successful.