A New Era of Tobacco Control Policy
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
While cigarette use among youth continues to fall overall, the rapid growth in e-cigarette and cigar use has triggered government attention to regulating these alternative tobacco products. The first e-cigarette Minimum Legal Sales Age law was passed by New Jersey in 2010, and the number of states adopting a purchasing law grew until all states had laws in place by the end of 2016. Additionally, three states have raised the minimum purchasing age to 21 for all tobacco products. Seven states now tax e-cigarettes and nine states prohibit vaping inside bars, restaurants, and private workplaces. In the meantime, municipalities are passing laws to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products.
What are the likely impacts of these regulations on public health? A study by the British government recently suggested that e-cigarettes are no more than 5% as harmful as conventional cigarettes. If e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes are substitutes or e-cigarettes can help smokers quit, stricter regulations on e-cigarettes may inadvertently cause harm to public health if the regulations cause smoking to increase. However, if e-cigarettes and cigarettes are complements (as advocated by a “gateway” theory), greater regulations of e-cigarettes, especially targeted towards youth, could be justified. As nearly 80% of 12-17 year olds initiate tobacco with flavored options, tighter regulations to address flavored products could be warranted. Our session provides evidence on whether e-cigarettes serve as economic substitutes or complements to cigarettes, as well as providing evidence on the effects of flavor bans on cigar use among youth.
The organized session contains four papers, and each paper will be discussed by one of two discussants. One study evaluates the effect of banning legal sales of e-cigarettes to minors on youth demand for cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol. A second study evaluates the effects of indoor vaping restrictions on prenatal smoking and birth outcomes. A third study estimates the potential impact on smokers’ and recent quitters’ demand for cigarettes and e-cigarettes if the FDA’s recent proposal to ban flavors from e-cigarettes comes into effect. A fourth study estimates the policy impact of banning flavors from small cigars and smokeless tobacco on consumer tobacco product use and consumer welfare.