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Regulating Vaping — Policies, Possibilities, and Perils

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1917065

Smoking rates peaked in the United States in the mid 1960s and have since declined to historically low levels. In contrast, use of e-cigarettes has recently soared, particularly among young people. In 2019, more than 27% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the past month, as compared with about 6% who reported using combustible cigarettes.1 Use of Juul products accounts for much of the doubling of vaping rates between 2017 and 2019, and these products represent 75% of the multibillion-dollar e-cigarette market. The growth in vaping among young people has alarmed policymakers and many others.

Federal and state governments have implemented numerous policies to combat the growth of vaping. To promote the health of the population, however, policies should protect young people without diminishing the ability of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers transition away from more harmful combustible cigarettes or to serve as a cessation aid for people attempting to quit smoking. This tension presents a quandary for policymakers, since vaping policies often promote one goal at the expense of the other. Furthermore, the facts that certain state and federal policies complement, substitute for, or undermine each other and that some federal policies supersede state policies add another layer of complexity to policymaking in this arena.

Because e-cigarettes vaporize liquid instead of burning tobacco, they are generally thought to be less harmful than combustible cigarettes.2 However, the long-term health effects of inhaling liquid flavoring chemicals and nicotine are unknown.

Juul is a cartridge (“pod”) type of e-cigarette — it is a reusable, rechargeable device that holds a liquid-containing pod, rather than a refillable open-tank system or a disposable device. Juul pods contain higher levels of nicotine than many other e-cigarette products, which makes them a better substitute for combustible cigarettes for smokers. However, high nicotine levels increase the risk of addiction among young people and can harm their cognitive development. Vaping e-cigarettes adulterated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and vitamin E acetate recently caused an outbreak of acute lung disease and deaths.3 Although these harms are seemingly linked to the addition of THC and to the use of e-cigarettes obtained from informal sources rather than to e-cigarettes in general, these complications heighten concerns about e-cigarettes.

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State and federal policymakers are focusing on two key policies for preventing vaping among young people: minimum sales age laws that restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to adolescents and bans on flavored e-cigarettes. Some states have also implemented e-cigarette taxes (see table).

In December 2019, Congress passed so-called Tobacco 21 legislation, which immediately sets a federal minimum age of 21 for purchasing tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia had enacted policies that set the minimum age for purchasing e-cigarettes at either 19 or 21; in other states, the minimum age was 18.

Because most tobacco use begins before 19 years of age, the new federal law has the potential to dramatically reduce current tobacco use among young people and prevent some people from ever using tobacco. However, enforcing bans on sales to minors is difficult in retail locations and even more so online, and young people often obtain e-cigarettes from family members and friends. To reduce access to e-cigarettes among young people, federal and state governments could increase funding for enforcement efforts and collaborate to find better ways to prevent sales to young people in stores and online.

Another important policy is banning flavored e-cigarettes. Because flavors are more attractive to young people than to adults, a flavor ban could reduce the appeal of e-cigarettes for young people without diminishing their role in harm reduction for adult smokers. Nine states have passed flavor bans, but most have been short-term emergency bans or have been blocked by legal challenges.

In December 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will use its market-review authority to essentially ban all flavors except tobacco and menthol in cartridge (pod-based) e-cigarettes. These changes became effective in February 2020. Disposable e-cigarettes and e-liquids for open-tank–system e-cigarettes typically sold in vape shops are not covered by the policy. The effect of the ban may be limited because of these important exemptions.

Banning all flavors in all tobacco products with few or no exemptions could be more effective than the current narrow ban for several reasons.4,5 First, menthol cigarettes, which remain on the market, have been shown to be appealing to young people. Second, although young people prefer fruit- and candy-flavored pods to menthol-flavored pods, the latter might become more attractive if they are the only flavored pods available. Third, under the current ban, young people may switch to e-cigarettes that are still permitted to contain flavoring. Indeed, adolescents have recently been favoring new flavored, disposable e-cigarettes that resemble Juul devices but have higher nicotine concentrations and cost less.

Another concern is that it is unclear how committed the FDA is to enforcing the flavor ban for cartridge e-cigarettes. The agency has largely declined to act on its authority to regulate e-cigarettes and to fulfill an obligation established by Congress to force products that do not protect public health, such as Juul devices, off the market. State bans on flavored e-cigarettes may therefore still be important.

A final policy is taxation of e-cigarettes. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia tax both e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes; the federal government taxes only combustibles.

The effects of such taxes on public health are complicated for several reasons. Levying taxes on e-cigarettes raises their price, thereby deterring some people from vaping. However, such taxes will also drive some vapers toward smoking, since taxes tend to increase the price of e-cigarettes relative to the price of combustibles.4,5 Consequently, the tax rate on e-cigarettes should be set so that it is cheaper to vape than to smoke. Determining optimal tax rates is complicated by the multiple types of e-cigarettes available, the fact that devices and pods are often bought separately, and the ability of companies — not the government — to set prices. Furthermore, too high a tax on e-cigarettes will encourage vaping of lower-priced or black-market e-cigarettes, thus undermining the benefits of the tax.

Given these considerations and the lack of evidence regarding how people respond to taxes on e-cigarettes, it may be preferable to rely on greater enforcement of Tobacco 21 policies and flavor bans to prevent vaping among young people. The appeal of tax revenue, however, may be too strong for governments to resist.

But at what level of government — state or federal — should e-cigarette policies be implemented? There are several advantages to states taking the lead. States may be more nimble regulators than the federal government, each state can regulate to meet its own needs, and state policies can serve as experiments and generate useful evidence. State laws can fill voids when federal regulations are absent or ineffective. States can also provide an impetus for federal action by demonstrating nationwide political will, as they did by passing Tobacco 21 laws. However, differing state policies risk leaving young people in some states unprotected and promoting the flow of e-cigarettes across state lines.

On the other hand, implementing regulations at the federal level has potential advantages over relying on state-based regulation of e-cigarettes because of the broad reach of national policies and their capacity to reduce trafficking across state borders. Nevertheless, as compared with states, the federal government has been slow to implement certain regulations.

Soaring rates of vaping among young people and associated problems have resulted in great urgency and important challenges for policymakers. Despite the urgency, policies should be evidence-based and thoughtfully designed. They require effective, collaborative, and well-funded enforcement by federal and state governments. Policymakers should aim to reduce vaping among young people while maintaining avenues to help smokers quit. Finally, policies should be forward-thinking, since the e-cigarette market is rapidly changing and e-cigarette companies can be more agile than regulators.

Group Urges Statewide Vaping Ban Amid Pandemic

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Secondhand smoke from electronic cigarette resulting in hypersensitivity pneumonitis

https://casereports.bmj.com/content/13/3/e233381.long

Abstract

Cases of vaping-induced lung injury have increased in the USA, resulting in a heterogeneous collection of pneumonitis patterns in persons who used electronic cigarettes. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis has been documented in several cases of first-hand electronic cigarette use; however, secondhand smoke health-related consequences have not been fully understood. We present a case of the patient who developed hypersensitivity pneumonitis secondary to exposure to secondhand smoke from electronic cigarette. We summarise the presentation and diagnostic investigation, as well as the management of this case.

Do state regulations on e-cigarettes have impacts on the e-cigarette prevalence?

https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2020/03/22/tobaccocontrol-2019-055287

Abstract

Background

We examine the association among five types of state regulations on electronic cigarettes (defining e-cigarettes, special tax, packaging, youth access and licensure) and initiation and current usage of e-cigarettes in 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

Methods

Data came from the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the US e-cigarette regulations—50 state review by the Public Health Law Center. Logistic regressions were used to determine the odds of initiation and current use of e-cigarettes among individuals aged 18–24, 25–34 and the whole sample, adjusting for socio-demographic covariates.

Results

Despite the short history of state laws on e-cigarettes, each of the five state laws was associated with lower odds of initiation and use of e-cigarettes in the whole sample. In the 18–24 age group, only the licensure was associated with lower initiation. In the 25–34 age group, the licensure and taxation were related to lower initiation and current usage. There were significant differences of e-cigarette initiation and usage based on the number of state laws regulating e-cigarettes.

Conclusions

Our analysis indicates the potential of states’ policy efforts to regulate e-cigarettes comprehensively in leading significant changes to e-cigarette prevalence in their populations.

Pain, nicotine, and tobacco smoking

https://journals.lww.com/pain/Citation/publishahead/Pain,_nicotine,_and_tobacco_smoking__current_state.98439.aspx

Young People Have No Idea How Much Nicotine They Vape: Study

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A Cigarette by any other name is still a cigarette

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Tobacco Retail Density and Initiation of Alternative Tobacco Product Use Among Teens

https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(19)30447-1/fulltext

Purpose

The rise of noncigarette, alternative tobacco product (ATP) use among adolescents may be due in part to an increase in retail availability of ATPs. We examined whether proximity and density of tobacco retailers near students’ homes are associated with a higher likelihood of initiating ATP use over time.

Methods

Using data from 728 adolescents (aged 13–19 years at baseline) residing in 191 different neighborhoods and attending 10 different California high schools, longitudinal multilevel and cross-classified random effect models evaluated individual-level, neighborhood-level, and school-level risk factors for ATP initiation after 1 year. Covariates were obtained from the American Community Survey and the California Department of Education.

Results

The sample was predominantly female (63.5%) and was racially and ethnically diverse. Approximately one third of participants (32.5%) reported ever ATP use at baseline, with 106 (14.5%) initiating ATP use within 1 year. The mean number of tobacco retailers per square mile within a tract was 5.66 (standard deviation = 6.3), and the average distance from each participant’s residence to the nearest tobacco retailer was .61 miles (standard deviation = .4). Living in neighborhoods with greater tobacco retailer density at baseline was associated with higher odds of ATP initiation (odds ratio = 1.22, 95% confidence interval = 1.07–2.12), controlling for individual and school factors.

Conclusions

Tobacco retailers clustered in students’ home neighborhood may be an environmental influence on adolescents’ ATP use. Policy efforts to reduce adolescent ATP use should aim to reduce the density of tobacco retailers and limit the proximity of tobacco retailers near adolescents’ homes and schools.

Spinning a New Tobacco Industry

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Nearly 2 million U.S. adult nonsmokers vape

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