Oregon Lawmakers Put Fear Over Facts | Citizens Against Government Waste

Oregon Lawmakers Put Fear Over Facts

The WasteWatcher

Oregon lawmakers put fear over facts with the introduction of HB 3090, which would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol products. This ban directly attacks tobacco harm reduction (THR) products and the individuals who rely on these products to quit smoking.  

Using e-cigarettes or vaping is a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes. Vaping can reduce the number of deaths as it is proven to be 95 percent less harmful than traditional smoking. Yet, fearmongering has spun out of control, and legislators have jumped at the chance to limit access to THR products. From 2007 to 2015, more than 3 million U.S. adults used THR products to quit smoking cigarettes. If public health is a priority, THR products should be acknowledged as an effective tool to decrease smoking among adults. 

Banning flavored products opens up the floodgates to black market sales and illegal smuggling. Making a product illegal won’t reduce demand but will put smokers at risk for illicit cigarette sales. One prime example of a flavor ban failure is in New York, which has a thriving black market for tobacco products. Higher taxes and outright bans fail to solve the problem it was intended to solve. New York has some of the highest tobacco taxes in the nation, which are designed to deter the behavior. Consumers don’t smoke less, and they merely purchase unregulated products at a lower cost to avoid the high taxes. In 2015, the state lost $1.63 billion due to untaxed tobacco sales. If smokers can’t buy two menthol products in a regulated market, they will find a way to purchase them in an unregulated, dangerous market. 

Despite the claims that menthol cigarettes significantly impact young smokers, youth smoking has been on a steady decline over the last decade and is at historic lows. The youth vaping narrative is littered with mistruths.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a significant reduction in the number of young smokers. There were 1.73 million, or 28 percent, fewer youth tobacco users in 2020 (4.47 million) than in 2019 (6.20 million). The Oregon legislature should focus on enforcing laws on the books to hold retailers accountable for selling products to underage individuals, not limiting access for adults.

If public health is at the center of Oregon’s most recent flavor ban, legislators would be acknowledging the successes in other countries that have utilized THR products to help adult smokers quit and not be moving ahead on bills like HB 3090. Citizens Against Government Waste’s 2021 issue brief, “Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Should Be Widely Adopted,” examined the impact of vaping products worldwide.

The report noted that Sweden has smoking rates of 5 percent compared to France at 33 percent, with Britain and Denmark at 16 percent. This low rate is primarily attributed to strong tobacco harm reduction policies. Japan has also embraced vaping products over traditional cigarettes, leading to significant declines in smoking. In 2016, Japan had 43.6 billion in domestic cigarette sales, which dropped by 43 percent to 25 billion by 2021. The widespread use in Japan of heated tobacco products and heated sticks to produce vapor, not smoke, increased over those five years. THR products like vaping have resulted in fewer deaths and helped adult smokers quit.

Oregon lawmakers should heed the importance of tobacco harm reduction products rather than harming the opportunity they give to help reduce the number of tobacco smokers.  HB 3090 should not be passed by the legislature.