July 9, 2015
“A current Minneapolis proposal to ban sales of flavored electronic cigarettes in convenience stores is contrary to the principles of good public health policy, ignores scientific evidence and could have the unintended consequence of keeping current smokers smoking — and dying.”
On July 2nd the Minneapolis StarTribune published an article in its Commentary section written by Richard Carmona, a former Surgeon General of the U.S. On July 6th the StarTribune published a Counterpoint article by Edward P. Ehlinger, the Minnesota state health commissioner. Both men are medical doctors. Both have years of experience in public health. And both have opposing viewpoints on the question of convenience store bans.
Banning E-Cigarette Sales in Convenience Stores
Carmona: A Minneapolis proposal to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in convenience stores is not in the best interests of public health.
Ehlinger: Limiting the sales of e-cigarettes to adult-only stores would reduce youth exposure and access to a product intended for adult smokers.
Banning the sale of electronic cigarettes in convenience stores would have a positive impact on public health. It would also have a very big, very negative impact on Big Tobacco and Big Vapor. Big Tobacco currently has 60% – 70% of the vaping market. Certainly not because they have superior products. But because they have the resources to put inferior products into hundreds of thousands of convenience stores almost overnight.
The overwhelming majority of the vaping community is current or former smokers. They are adamant about the reality that vaping and smoking are two entirely different things. 15,000 vape shops are adamant about the reality that they are NOT Big Tobacco. And everyone is adamant about limiting sales strictly to adults.
Banning sales of vaping products in convenience stores would be a huge step toward meeting all of those goals. Adult smokers looking to quit, and those that have already quit, would have little trouble finding options for purchasing vaping products. And significant reductions in illegal sales to youth would almost certainly be assured.
A Safer Alternative to Smoking
Carmona: A safer alternative to combustible cigarettes demands the widest possible distribution – in the name of public health.
Ehlinger: The widest possible distribution encourages use by youth who might avoid potential nicotine addiction with more limited access.
Smokers who are serious about living longer, healthier lives will not be deterred from seeking a safer alternative because of the need to drive a little further to purchase superior products.
No one is naïve enough to believe that removing vaping products from convenience stores will halt all use by youth. That does not mean that it is not reasonable to expect that reducing youth exposure will not reduce youth uptake. The potential benefits outweigh the minor costs.
Carmona: Flavors are a crucially important contributing factor to the success of vaping products as a smoking cessation aid. A position supported by substantial scientific evidence.
Ehlinger: Youth tobacco use rates are “dropping dramatically”. Flavors in vaping products are attractive and intentionally marketed to youth.
No doubt about it – youth (and adult) tobacco use rates are not only declining. They are declining at rates never previously recorded. And reaching historically low levels. While public health continues to deny any connection to rising vaping product sales, they also fail to offer any other plausible explanation.
A 2014 survey found that 80% of former smokers turned vapers use non-tobacco flavored e-liquids. 60% use sweet flavors. Adults like flavors too. Flavors are key to harm reduction – for youth and adults.
The former Surgeon General is on the board of directors for NJOY. In any discussion regarding banning the sale of vaping products in convenience stores, it is impossible to deny the inescapable bias of his position. Carmona titled his comment in the StarTribune “Proposed ban on flavored tobacco in Minneapolis is counterproductive”. Perhaps a more accurate title would have been “Big Tobacco E-Cigarette Products Would be Crippled by a Convenience Store Ban”.
Should vaping products be banned from convenience stores? When viewed from a public health perspective, banning convenience store sales offers great benefits. When viewed from the goal of minimizing youth access to nicotine products, banning convenience store sales offers great benefits. One would be hard pressed to identify any goal of public health, the vaping industry or vapers that would not benefit from banning convenience store sales.
And it’s never going to happen. Big Tobacco and Big Government will never let it happen.
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Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.