The War on Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Will Continue to Fail | Citizens Against Government Waste

The War on Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Will Continue to Fail

The WasteWatcher

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has long supported the use of less dangerous products to reduce cigarette use.  CAGW’s September 2023 issue brief, “Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Should Be Promoted Not Prohibited,” examined how vaping products helped millions of U.S. adult smokers quit smoking and saved lives, and how government laws and regulations are making it harder to use these products. 

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) products are less dangerous alternatives to traditional cigarettes that help adult smokers quit the habit.  Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths annually in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.  This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.  

Between 2005 and 2021, traditional smoking rates dropped by 45 percent, from 20.9 percent (nearly 21 out of every 100 adults) to 11.5 percent (nearly 12 out of every 100 adults).  From 2007 to 2015, more than three million U.S. adults used THR products to quit smoking cigarettes.  A March 9, 2023, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report found that in 2021, among American adults currently using e-cigarettes, 40.3 percent had formerly smoked cigarettes.  Yet, government restrictions at every level have made it harder to access regulated products that have helped save lives.

The benefits of THR far outweigh the bad and restricting products have led consumers to illicit black markets that sell unregulated and dangerous products.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had a serious hand in limiting THR products on the market with restrictions and flavor bans, yet, the number of different e-cigarette devices sold in the U.S. has tripled to more than 9,000 since 2020.  This increase is, unfortunately, driven mainly by unauthorized disposable vaping products from China.  Concern about such products led the FDA to issue 187 warning letters on May 25, 2023, to Shenzen Innokin Technology Co. Ltd., which makes Exco Bars products, and Breeze Smoke, LLC, which imports and distributes Breeze products.  According to the FDA, these firms have been manufacturing, distributing, and importing unauthorized tobacco products in the U.S.

THR products are growing extremely popular, especially for adult smokers who have quit cigarettes.  The demand for vaping products is undeniable despite a federal crackdown.  E-cigarette unit sales rose nearly 47 percent between January 2020 and December 2022.  The CDC recognizes that the most popular brands of disposable e-cigarettes on the market aren’t FDA-approved and are illegal, which was a key factor in the issuance of the FDA warning letters. 

THR products are less dangerous alternatives and give adult smokers an option when trying to quit.  Instead of banning such products, which encourages an environment for unregulated products to be sold, the FDA should encourage smoking cessation among adults by allowing regulated and effective harm reduction products in the marketplace.