WASHINGTON, D.C. — This morning, the Washington Post reported that the Biden Administration is expected to announce plans for the Food & Drug Administration to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored mass-produced little cigars. With combustible tobacco products killing over 450,000 people each year, it is clear that a policy like this has the potential to save lives. However, many news reports on the possible ban are ignoring a key question — how will America’s 10 million-plus adult menthol smokers and several million little cigar users respond to a ban?
The American Vaping Association, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for tobacco harm reduction policies, is urging the FDA and lawmakers to recognize that regulated and satisfying smoke-free alternatives are an essential part of any new public health-focused tobacco regulatory system.
This is line with the FDA’s own Comprehensive Plan for Tobacco and Nicotine Regulation, which was proffered by then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in July of 2017. One of the key questions that the FDA has been exploring is the role flavored non-combustible products can play in helping adult smokers transition away from the use of deadly combustible tobacco products.
Since that plan was announced, vaping product manufactures have submitted hundreds of thousands of premarket tobacco applications to the FDA, which must assess each product on a standard that asks whether it is ‘appropriate for the protection of public health.’ Furthermore, the FDA has granted modified risk orders to two different flavored smoke-free tobacco products — snus and heat-not-burn products — authorizing truthful health claims to be made in marketing.
Despite the potential menthol ban fitting within the FDA’s comprehensive plan, another key part of the plan — properly regulated and safer smoke-free products — is barely being acknowledged by policymakers and activists.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, commented:
“As the debate over the Biden administration’s menthol and flavored cigar ban intensifies, the need for harm reduction alternatives cannot be ignored. Evidence from other countries suggests that a menthol ban is not a magic wand that will spur a majority of users to quit nicotine entirely. There will be no massive public health benefit if the response from most menthol and little cigar smokers is to switch to Marlboros or use illicit products bought off the street.
“For all of its faults, the FDA does strive to be a science-based organization. The science shows that while menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars kill, flavored nicotine vaping products do not. It is critical that the FDA take the lead in informing the public that bans on combustible tobacco products will not succeed if satisfying safer alternatives are kept out of the hands of adult smokers.
“Regrettably, the activists pushing these bans have shown that they are not open discussions on harm reduction. The leader of the movement, Matt Myers of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has received $160 million from Michael Bloomberg specifically to push for bans on harm reduction alternatives like vaping products. So long as these groups are permitted to control the narrative, public health and adult smokers will suffer.”
Ed. Note (4/29/2021): Corrected to note that there are “10 million-plus” current adult menthol cigarette users in the United States, not 20 million, as has been cited in media reports.
About the American Vaping Association
The American Vaping Association is a nonprofit organization that advocates for fair and sensible regulation of vapor products, otherwise known as electronic cigarettes, with the goal of maximizing the number of adult smokers who use these products to quit smoking. The AVA was founded by Gregory Conley, a consumer and industry advocate with a long track record of advocating for vapor products dating back to 2010.
We are dedicated to educating the public and government officials about public health benefits offered by vapor products, which are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine or nicotine-free solution and create an inhalable vapor. The AVA is not a trade group and does not speak for any particular businesses, including our industry sponsors.