Legislation has been introduced in Indiana that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vapor products. This is not the first time such legislation has been introduced with sttw Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, introducing similar bills in 2020, 2021 and last year. Yet, this year’s proposed ban comes amid recent state and national data that youth vaping is declining and youth use of traditional tobacco products is at record lows. Given the failed experiences in other states, Indiana should refrain from imposing restrictions on products that adults responsibly consume and youth are not overwhelmingly using.
House Bill 1133 would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and e-liquid products, including “cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco … and tobacco products that have a characterizing flavor.”
Indiana’s WFYI reported on a recent gathering of students at the state capitol in January. In the article, the author points to a “rise in youth vaping” and quotes Dr. Lindsey Weaver, chief medical officer at the Indiana Department of Health, remarking that youth cigarette use “is declining, [but] vaping and e-cigarette use is on the rise.” WFYI also interviewed a student ambassador for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids who “wants lawmakers to ban flavored vaping products.”
Lawmakers must be aware that not only is the data being spouted false, but it negates the positive impact vaping has had on adults in the Hoosier State.
First, WFYI points to outdated survey data, claiming that 20 percent of “high school Hoosiers reported e-cigarette use in 2021.” In 2022, 18.8 percent of Indiana high school students reported ever having tried an e-cigarette, which was actually a 29 percent decline from 2020’s rates. Past-month use, defined as having used the product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey, is also down. In 2022, 12.2 percent of high school Hoosiers reported using an e-cigarette in the past month, which was a 32 percent decrease from 2020 and a whopping 45.6 percent decline from 2018 when 22.4 percent reported past-month vape use.
Even better, only 2.4 percent of Indiana high school students had used combustible cigarettes in the month prior, which is some of the lowest levels ever recorded.
These are reflective of national trends. Youth vaping peaked in 2019, when one in five (20 percent) of middle and high school students reported past-month e-cigarette use. In 2022, less than one in ten (9.4 percent) were using e-cigarettes.
Flavored tobacco and vapor product bans are also fiscally irresponsible and would significantly lessen tobacco tax revenue, while failing to significantly reduce smoking rates. For example, Massachusetts enacted a flavored tobacco and vape ban in 2020 and between 2020 and 2021, cigarette tax revenue decreased by 22.4 percent, from $447.4 million to $370.8 million.
This is not due to a significant decrease in the adult smoking population. Between 2020 and 2021, smoking rates among all Massachusetts adults decreased by only 4.5 percent. Yet, in neighboring New Hampshire (which collected $228.3 million in 2021), there was a 14.4 percent increase in cigarette taxes from 2020, and smoking rates decreased by 11.5 percent between 2020 and 2021.
Lawmakers must also be aware of the potential health benefits of novel tobacco harm reduction products, including e-cigarettes and other smokeless products which deliver nicotine without the harms associated with combustion. In fact, their introduction has correlated with significant declines in smoking rates among young adults.
In 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, among young adults aged 18 to 24 years old in Indiana, 18.7 percent of them were currently smoking and 11.3 percent were currently using e-cigarettes. Between 2017 and 2021, young adult smoking rates decreased by 60.4 percent while vaping rates increased by 77 percent. In fact, in 2021, only 7.4 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were smoking cigarettes in Indiana, some of the lowest levels recorded.
Prohibition is always bad policy. Rather than restrict adults from tobacco and safer alternatives, Indiana should look at ways to make its existing tobacco control program more robust to address the minimal number of youth using tobacco and vape products.