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harm reduction

The FDA is betraying millions of consumers by killing one of the most popular anti-smoking devices

Washington, D.C. – The Food & Drug Administration is reportedly set to deny Juul’s pre-market authorization applications, which would effectively ban all Juul nicotine vaping products in the United States.

The Consumer Choice Center calls the FDA’s actions a “betrayal” for consumers and former smokers who have used Juul and other vaping products to quit smoking.

“The FDA is ratcheting up its all-out Nicotine Prohibition Campaign, this time by leaking that it will soon rip popular Juul products from the shelves of gas stations, convenience stores, and vape shops,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

“This is an act of betrayal to the millions of former smokers who have switched to less harmful products like Juul to get them away from cigarettes. When you add this specific FDA marketing denial to the tens of thousands of others from smaller vapor companies, the FDA has explicitly chosen the anti-scientific stance of denying that harm reduction is a significant tool in getting smokers to switch. 

“The fact that we are in a time of economic uncertainty, high gas prices, and rising inflation, and the Biden Administration and its agencies are more focused on removing legal products from consumers’ hands tells you all you need to know. This administration does not care about consumers, and it cares even less about your health,” said Ossowski.

RELATED: The CCC recently hosted the Menthol Melee to explore the impact of the FDA’s looming bans on menthol and flavored tobacco products, again underscoring the agency’s troubling rulemaking.

The case for permissionless innovation in tobacco harm reduction

By Yaël Ossowski

As a consumer advocate enamored with technology, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a new product or service providing a solution to an old problem.

The entire world of Bitcoin — lightning nodes, censorship resistance, and frictionless cross-border payments — is doing wonders for financial freedom and security.

Ride-sharing and home-sharing apps are putting dormant property to use, providing income for drivers and homeowners and rides and places to stay for tourists and students.

And when it comes to tobacco harm reduction, innovation is picking up at breakneck speed, offering new and more effective ways to wean smokers off the harms of cigarettes. At another time, this is something public health organizations would have praised.

Pod vaping devices, open tanks, synthetic nicotine disposables, snus, heated tobacco products, and nicotine pouches are offering precisely what former smokers need without the same level of risk, all varied to some degree.

It is the permissionless innovation of this entire field — entrepreneurs large and small — that provides such hope to us technological optimists and harm reduction advocates. It excites us to the opportunities that progress can provide.

But for opponents of this particular shade of innovation — whether health groups, academics, or competing lobbies —  the very nature of how these products come to be is what so concerns them.

The vast majority of vaping products and alternative tobacco products are not spawned from public grants, university studies, or government programs, but rather from the process of entrepreneurial discovery, offering solutions to problems that exist in society.

This could be a former-smoker turned vaping entrepreneur with a thriving flavored liquids business run out of his garage, a multinational tobacco firm with thousands of employees, or a group of engineering students who just want to create a cool and safer alternative to the daily pack of cigarettes.

These entrepreneurial forces are reacting to a demand in the market, namely, millions of smokers who want to stub their last cigarette. For many of us, this is a positive example of permissionless innovation. For others, it is nothing more than greed and exploitation.

One can understand that the institutions and lobby groups that oppose efforts at tobacco harm reduction are threatened by private industries providing solutions more effective than the status quo. Or perhaps they even question their intentions.

But the fact remains that millions of former smokers, driven by their own conscious wants and needs, have found an alternative that works for them, provided by firms and entrepreneurs who did not ask for the permission of authorities. That is how our market economies should work.

To that end, new lines of nicotine pouches, vape mods, and disposable vapes are debuted on the market each day, some better than others.

Many of these innovators will fail: perhaps they will create a product that fails to gain customers or blur ethical lines on their advertising that eventually send them to court. Or, as in most cases, will vastly underestimate the cottage industry of governmental lobbying that can only be navigated by the most skilled and politically-connected industries, as the US Food & Drug Administration’s byzantine PMTA process has demonstrated.

That said, we should continue to cheer the innovators that provide us with solutions. And we should support them when their interests, and by extension, ours, are threatened by burdensome regulations and bureaucratic decrees.

When legislators are fed false narratives about lung illnesses and their connection to legal vaping products, as the 2019 EVALI crisis demonstrated, or perhaps are confronted with bombastic claims about a youth vaping epidemic, we must stand up for the people for precisely the people who will be hurt by spontaneous legislation: the adult users of the drug who just want a better option.

There are real externalities that must be dealt with: youth access, dangerous products laced with other compounds, and faulty devices that endanger users.

But we cannot kneecap the permissionless innovation in tobacco harm reduction that is saving lives and giving us solutions we couldn’t even imagine. If that remains a priority for consumer advocates like myself, it will have made all the difference.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Smoking is up for the first time in a generation. The public health lobby is to blame

By Yaël Ossowski

It often takes a long time for health policy influencers, advocates, and proponents to admit fault. 

When it is about topics such as diet fads, saturated fats, food pyramids, and sugar consumption, long-held consensus beliefs and government actions later proved erroneous have had a lasting negative impact.

But nothing has been more egregious and harmful in our current age than the public health lobby’s persistent denialism of the harm reduction value of nicotine vaping products and other alternatives to cigarettes.

That denialism has come in many forms: public information campaigns demonizing vaping devices, misinformation on lung illnesses caused by tainted cannabis cartridges, bans, restrictions, and taxes on flavored nicotine products (especially those without tobacco), Kafkaesque market authorization applications handled by the drug regulators, and a never-ending crusade to deny adult consumers from having access to life-saving products because of illicit and risky behavior by teens.

These public health bodies, anti-smoking groups, and allied journalists, whatever their intent, have sought to convince the public that not only is smoking bad and dangerous — an easy admission — but also that alternative nicotine devices like vaping products, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco are just as or even riskier than a pack of smokes.

Those conclusions are easily debunked by the millions of passionate vapers who have long since put down cigarettes and taken up customized tanks, vaporizers, and flavored liquids that give them a familiar nicotine sensation without the tar and combustible byproducts of tobacco.

David Butow for Rolling Stone

The public health mission to muddy the popular perception of nicotine alternatives such as vaping — even though it is scientifically proven to be 95% less harmful than cigarettes — is causing actual damage to American public health. And now we have the proof.

That proof is found both in the increased sales of cigarettes nationwide and also in a highly concentrated study on teen smoking in a jurisdiction where flavored nicotine vaping was outlawed.

According to the sales figures collected by the Federal Trade Commission for its 2020 Cigarette Report, Americans bought more cigarettes in 2020 than they have in more than a generation.

“The total number of cigarettes reported sold by the major manufacturers, 203.7 billion units in 2020, increased by 0.8 billion units (0.4 percent) from 2019, the first increase in cigarettes sold in twenty years,” cites the report.

Americans could be buying more cigarettes for a multitude of reasons: lockdowns, stress from both the pandemic and the government responses to the pandemic, job losses, closed schools, and more. Or perhaps because they’ve been told repeatedly by trusted public health sources and news outlets that vaping, an alternative that millions of adult consumers are now using to quit smoking, is just as dangerous.

Whatever your conclusion, the trend that lowered the percentage of US smokers down to 14 percent in 2019 (when the last complete nationwide survey was completed) is halting. And that should concern us all.

We see anecdotal echoes of this in a recent style piece in the New York Times, highlighting the “comeback” of cigarettes among the bourgeois hipster crowd in Brooklyn, New York. 

“I switched back to cigarettes because I thought it would be healthier than Juuling,” claimed one woman. It seems the public health lobbies have done their job.

On the more evidentiary side, an extensive May 2021 article published in JAMA Pediatrics found that after San Francisco’s ban on flavored vaping and tobacco products, more teens took up smoking.

“San Francisco’s ban on flavored tobacco product sales was associated with increased smoking among minor high school students relative to other school districts,” concludes the paper.

As tobacco harm reduction advocates have claimed for several years, the persistent public health campaigns, echoed by headline-grabbing media outlets, to demonize and restrict access to vaping has led to a predictable rise in smoking rates, both among adults and teens.

Whatever your view on whether vaping devices, heated tobacco, snus, or nicotine pouches are the most attractive and effective gateway away from smoking, this recent uptick in smoking demonstrates actual harms result when politically-charged health lobbies seek to extinguish market alternatives. And we must ask why they persist.

The opposition of these groups, along with affiliated journalists and researchers, to the rise of nicotine alternatives may have less to do with quantitative questions of science and health and more to do with how these products were created and are delivered: by entrepreneurs providing solutions in the market.

These entrepreneurs are vape shop owners, makers of vape liquids, gas station owners, vaping technology firms, tobacco firms pivoting to alternative products, and an entire creative class of vaping influencers both on and offline who are trying to give smokers a second chance at a long life. These are the true heroes of harm reduction in the 21st century.

The fact that spontaneous markets can deliver helpful and healthier solutions because of consumer demand, rather than by edicts, funding, and programs directly controlled by public health bureaucracies and agencies, runs counter to much of the ideology in the tobacco control space. 

It is the former, therefore, that is the true American innovative spirit that has helped make this country so prosperous and competitive, while the latter has failed us again and again.

If we want to reclaim a true public health victory and help smokers quit to give them long and fruitful lives, it is time to cast aside this aversion to the innovations of the market. The future health of our nation depends on it.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center

The Myth of the Vaping Crisis is Sparking a New War on Flavored Nicotine Products – And That Harms Consumers

In the backdrop of a very busy Congress, members of the U.S. House are pushing a bill that would eradicate entire categories of flavored nicotine products.

This sweeping ban would directly harm consumers who use menthol tobacco, flavored cigars, snus, and vaping products by outlawing the products they use and pushing them to the black market.

The proposed law comes in the wake of the much-hyped “vaping crisis” that transpired over the summer, in which thousands of individuals suffered lung damage from inhaling vapor products, also called e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

In the end, the culprit was revealed to be illegal cannabis vaping cartridges loaded with Vitamin E acetate and not nicotine vaping products, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Read the Consumer Choice Center Policy Primer: Myths and Facts on Vaping: What Policymakers Should Know

Though scientific experts correctly identified the cause of the injuries – black market THC cannabis vape cartridges – that hasn’t stopped legislators from using that pretext to introduce new prohibitions on flavored tobacco products used responsibly by adult consumers.

H.R. 2339, named the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019, proposes several sweeping changes to flavored consumer products and is expected to soon hit the House floor for a vote.

The bill would outlaw the following:

  • Menthol products
  • Flavored cigars and cigarillos
  • Flavored smokeless tobacco, known as snus or dip.
  • Some flavored vaping products

The goal is to significantly reduce or eliminate youth use of these products, which is a noble pursuit.

But youth smoking is at an all-time low

Fewer young people than ever are using traditional tobacco products – less than 2.3%. That’s a significant decline since the year 2000, where nearly 15% of minors smoked cigarettes, according to the CDC.

  • This represents a public health victory, and one that has been achieved with sensible education, regulation, and innovation. The same is true for adult smokers. Just 13.7% of adults currently smoke, the lowest number ever recorded.
  • The latest CDC figures show that 20.8 percent of high schoolers have vaped at least once in the last 30 days. But 7 to 8% of those were vaping cannabis rather than nicotine.
  • A total flavor ban on all tobacco products and vaping products for adults would do little to curb use among youth.
  • It may even exacerbate the problem and only punish lawful adult consumers and deprive them of their choice, not to mention devastate the communities that rely on tobacco taxes to fund important social programs.

What’s more, by categorizing non-tobacco vapor products as tobacco products, House members are attacking the very innovation that has led to the lowest-ever figure of recorded tobacco use.

Prohibition Hasn’t Worked

The 100-year anniversary of the passage of Prohibition of alcohol took place last month.

  • All these years later, we know that outlawing certain consumer products does not eradicate their existence. Rather, it moves them from the legal, regulated market to the illicit and unregulated black market.
  • This makes the products themselves less safe, and the trade around those products even more dangerous.

After an entire nation had awoken to the disaster of Prohibition, it was successfully repealed in 1933.

Minorities are more likely to use menthol products

According to the CDC, African-Americans who use tobacco are 90% more likely to favor menthol products and represent the vast majority of consumers in the flavored tobacco market.

  • A ban would create an illicit market without regulations or ID checks
  • Such bans would then force police officers to crack down on illicit menthol cigarette trade, further straining relations between the African-American community
  • As seen in the case of Eric Garner, who was choked out by a police officer and later died in New York City for selling loose cigarettes on the street, bans and restrictions that create illegal markets can lead to devastating consequences.
  • If a law bans menthol and flavored tobacco products, the demand wouldn’t disappear.

Rather, it would be pushed into the unregulated market, siphoning away tobacco taxes and incenting police officers to use their power to enforce laws in minority communities.

Age-restriction by law is a powerful means of dissuading youth use

By penalizing convenience retailers that sell to minors, regulators have already created a significant barrier to youth access.

  • This allows law enforcement to prosecute bad actors and focus their efforts on illicit markets where dealers don’t ask for ID.
  • Recently, Congress’ raising of the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21 years old also dissuades youth use, ensuring no high schooler will be able to legally purchase these products.
  • Nearly half of tobacco and vape shops don’t ID young customers.

Enforcing existing laws on youth access, including prosecuting shops that don’t check ID, are a powerful means of keeping youth away from tobacco products.

Bans Deny the Science on Harm Reduction by Vaping and Smokeless Products

For many adult smokers looking to quit, vaping products have been proven key to harm reduction.

  • About 4.4% of adults, nearly 11 million, are now using vaping devices
  • National health bodies around the world, including Public Health England, the New Zealand Ministry of Health, and Health Canada have endorsed vaping as a smoking cessation method.
  • The U.K.’s top health body has repeatedly said that vaping and e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than smoking.
  • Bans that include flavored vaping products would deprive adult smokers of a less harmful method of consuming nicotine

We all have an interest in eliminating the number of young people who take up smoking. But counterintuitive bans would make that goal harder, not easier to achieve.

And depriving adult consumers of harm reducing technologies like flavored vaping products will reserve the decades of public health successes.

Let’s hope our members of Congress consider these facts before they vote on H.R. 2339.

Download the full policy note here.

Trump’s Vape Pod Flavor Ban is Just Another New Year’s Hangover

Trump’s Vape Pod Flavor Ban is Just Another New Year’s Hangover


Washington, D.C. – As millions of Americans awoke on New Year’s Day, we learned the Trump Administration and the FDA will soon present a ban on all flavors except tobacco and menthol in pod-based vaping devices.

Though the ban is not as sweeping as first rumored, it will still deprive millions of adults of the harm-reducing flavors they have enjoyed to switch away from using cigarettes.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center, said a ban of this magnitude is still bad public policy, and deprives adults of more options for harm reduction.

“To be clear, the new policy is less egregious than a blanket ban or a ban on the open systems favored by advanced vapers. But it still denies the science on harm reduction and the reality of using flavors to convince adults to switch to less harmful methods of consuming nicotine,” said Ossowski.

“Pod-based devices are popular among former smokers because they’re portable, easy to maintain, and provide just the right amount of nicotine and taste to keep them away from normal combustible cigarettes. Flavors are instrumental to that equation.

“The debate on flavors has been framed by the radical tobacco control groups who need a new enemy. It’s unfortunate that vaping, which has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking, will now become less available to the people who need it the most.

“The facts are on the side of those who champion harm reduction and consumer choice. And in this case, because of the myths peddled by well-funded tobacco control groups, an innovative technology that has saved and will save millions of people has been demonized.

“We have a system in our country to age-prohibit certain goods like alcohol and tobacco. Rather than taking away options from adult consumers, we should investigate why kids are getting their hands on their devices and pods in the first place, and concentrate resources there instead of resorting to outright bans.

“It’s more a question of enforcement than a question of whether flavors should exist at all.

“Yet more prohibitions will only embolden sellers and dealers on the black market, who were the main culprits in the much-hyped vaping “crisis” of last year, and unlike traditional retailers and vape shops, don’t ask for ID.

“We need to continue fighting for effective harm reduction, and that won’t end here,” said Ossowski.

Check out the CCC’s Top Myths and Facts on Vaping here.

CONTACT:
Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center
yael@consumerchoicecenter.org

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The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. 

We represent consumers in over 100 countries across the globe and closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

The Consumer Choice Center talked with Vicki McKenna about the “Don’t Vape” hearing

Washington D.C – Our Senior Fellow Jeff Stier sat down with Vicki McKenna for a quick chat about #Vaping, her recent testimony for the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy hearing, and how she became a public health hero for the harm-reduction campaign.


For more facts on vaping, read our research on the Myths and Facts on Vaping: What Policymakers Should Know


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Politicians are scapegoating e-cigs for harm they haven’t done

When there’s an outbreak of deaths or illnesses from injected street drugs, do public health authorities demand diabetics and doctors stop using syringes? Of course not. Yet a host of public officials — from President Trump to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to members of the Squad — are taking just that sort of approach in responding to the spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths around the country.

Cuomo, for example, went on a tear Sunday about vaping, calling it “a burgeoning health crisis” and threatening to declare an emergency to ban flavored nicotine e-cigarettes. That followed Trump’s announcement last Wednesday of federal plans to prohibit such devices.

The dramatic sudden outbursts of concern come after six deaths and 380 severe acute pulmonary illnesses, including at least 41 in New York. The cases were linked not to nicotine e-cigarettes but to vaping THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

E-cigarettes like Juul are intended to be used to inhale nicotine, but other types of vaping devices can also deliver cannabis-derived substances such as butane hash oils, known as “dabs.”

Scientists at New York’s Department of Health have led the way in pointing the finger at black-market THC-containing liquids, finding “very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples analyzed” in their investigation.

State laboratory test results found that “at least one vitamin E acetate-containing vape product has been linked to each patient who submitted a product for testing.” Vitamin E acetate is an oily substance used to thicken cannabis-derived vaping liquids.

Vaping devices, including e-cigarette hardware, are simply devices for delivering an aerosolized solution. Nicotine e-cigarettes, which serve as a substitute for deadly cigarettes that burn tobacco, typically contain a solution of nicotine, flavorings and vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol.

Globally, tens of millions of people have used billions of e-cigarettes without any acute ill effects. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has told state health officials that lab testing of unused legal nicotine vape products of the type obtained from sick patients (who likely also used an illegal THC oil) found no contaminants or ingredients suspected of causing illness.

It’s a very different story when a vaporizer is used to deliver black-market street drugs like the cannabis-derived oils that are being dangerously adulterated with vitamin E acetate.

In announcing the planned federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes in the midst of the outbreak of lung disease, Trump is being misled. Vaping nicotine is an approach to harm-reduction, and appealing non-tobacco flavors are critical to reduce the likelihood that adults will revert to smoking cigarettes.

Exposure to nicotine is not healthy, to be sure, and kids should not vape (unless they already smoke cigarettes and want to transition to a less harmful alternative). But prohibition seldom works, and data from the FDA indicate that while vaping in teens is up, cigarette smoking has fallen to historic lows.

Still, elected officials continue their attack on e-cigarettes, recommending that nearly everyone stop vaping immediately.

That might seem like an abundance of caution, but it’s really an abundance of chicanery. Linking acute lung disease to e-cigarettes is no more logical than warning people about the dangers of vaccination because vaccines are delivered through a needle, and people can get hepatitis from dirty needles.

Expansive warnings to stop vaping altogether, instead of to avoid illicit contaminated THC products, are like advising ex-smokers who have switched to vaping to return to smoking cigarettes. That puts vapers’ lives at risk.

What we need is aggressive state, local and federal enforcement against teen vaping and Drug Enforcement Administration action against illegal THC vapes that cause lung disease.

Meanwhile, why are politicians and public health officials behaving so badly? We have a hypothesis: Until now, the most prominent allegations of serious health effects (even for adults) from e-cigarettes were hypotheticals — such as that vaping would be a “gateway” to cigarette smoking — that have failed to materialize.

In fact, teen cigarette-smoking has been declining. Now, with reports of verifiable acute illnesses and even deaths, politicians are brazenly attempting to indict nicotine vaping, even though their case against the practice is without merit.

In a reckless attempt to redeem their credibility in their war on e-cigarettes, they’ve doubled down on misinformation, disingenuously implying that cannabis-derived oils, home-brewed THC vapes and unadulterated nicotine-containing e-cigarettes all pose the same risks.

They think they can get away with it because … well, virtually nobody has challenged them. It’s time more people did.

Henry Miller is a Pacific Research Institute senior fellow and the founding director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology. Jeff Stier is a Consumer Choice Center senior fellow.

Trump’s proposed ban on vape flavors may not stop teens from vaping, experts warn

“Are we not to learn anything from the current THC hash oil acute lung illness situation?”  asked Jeff Stier, a senior fellow and tobacco harm reduction advocate at the free market Consumer Choice Center. “We don’t want consumers adding stuff to their e-cigs. And we don’t want more sophisticated black-market folks doing it.”

Read more here

Federal e-cigarette removal proposal brings cautious celebration, warnings of overreach

Some free-market advocates say they believe Trump is overreacting to the vaping and lung illness connection.

“Trump needs to know the fact that adult smokers are switching en masse to these new reduced-risk products and they’ve been proven to be 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes,” said Yaël Ossowski, the deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

“These individuals switch in part due to vaping flavors, and that should be kept in mind.

“We should not use isolated cases caused by illegal products to inform public policy on the life-saving capabilities of vaping devices for adults,” Ossowski said. “That is bad science and bad public policy.”

Read more here

Trump Administration Takes Aim at E-Cigarettes

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, said the Trump administration needs to follow the facts.

“The fact is that the technological revolution that is happening today with vaping is giving people a less harmful alternative to consume nicotine, the stimulant alkaloid that smokers are actually addicted to. That’s something to celebrate,” Ossowski said.

“Trump needs to know that, as well as the fact that adult smokers are switching en masse to these new reduced-risk products and they’ve been proven to be 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes. These individuals switch in part due to vaping flavors, and that should be kept in mind. That said, no one wants teens to be vaping, and we should make sure of that,” he said, adding “there is more we can do to stop youth vaping, but we must preserve this technology as a tool for adults to consume their nicotine in a less harmful fashion.”

Read more here

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