Study: Flavored Tobacco Bans Can Push More Kids To Smoke

Jun 1, 2021

Some cities and states are banning flavored tobacco products — like those commonly found in e-cigarettes. A new study from the Yale School of Public Health finds that could have an unwanted effect — it could push kids toward traditional cigarettes.

Abigail Friedman is with the Yale School of Public Health. She said many public health experts have urged lawmakers to ban things like flavor cartridges — that make e-cigarettes taste like menthol or peach.

“And of course, these bans are mostly being passed out of an interest in the appeal of flavors to kids. So what we really care about is, when you ban flavored tobacco products, what happens to tobacco use among kids?” Friedman said.

Friedman looked at what happened when San Francisco banned all flavored tobacco products. She found that before the ban, kids in San Francisco smoked about as much as kids in other places. After the ban, a San Francisco kid was about twice as likely to smoke.

“I would say it’s very compelling evidence that the ban led to an increase in smoking,” Friedman said.

There are still questions about the health risks of vaping, but most scientists agree smoking is definitely worse. Friedman said there’s a moral here for people who craft public health policy.

“In the policy world, you’ve got screwdrivers and drills. But the problem with a drill is, even though you think it’s gonna get you there fast, it can overshoot the mark and cause a lot of damage. We need to start looking with tobacco products to screwdrivers, the things where we can do slightly nuanced shifts but be careful not to go too far,” Friedman said.

The FDA in April proposed bans on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. And lawmakers in Connecticut are considering bills, too — including one that would ban flavored e-cigarettes.