In late April, the FDA issued a formal announcement of its intention to ban all flavored tobacco and nicotine products. This opposition to flavored nicotine and tobacco is not a new sentiment, as the FDA already attempted to ban these flavored products back in 2018. However, due to strong opposition from tobacco companies, they were forced to withdraw their motion. Nevertheless, they have regained momentum on the issue, and are hoping to implement this ban within the next year.
How will the youth be affected?
The FDA have defended their actions by explaining that flavors attract young people into nicotine and tobacco consumption. Thus, the ban is attempting to curb this pattern; however, it could very well have the opposite effect. Throughout generations, teenagers have been known to experiment with tobacco. Nicotine products brought about a slight decline in this trend, with the youth opting for flavored nicotine vapes and pouches instead of traditional cigarettes, as they provided more flavors for various palates and preferences. However, once the ban comes into full effect, it is likely that teenagers will return to traditional tobacco products, as the more tempting aspect of nicotine products has fallen by the wayside. This is succinctly summarized by Abigail Friedman, an assistant professor of health policy at YSPH, who stated that “[even] if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health.”
However, not only the youth are at risk if this ban is passed. For years, the USA has seen a positive decline in smoking as cessation products have become more and more popular among adult smokers. While the FDA should be endorsing this trend, it is instead shifting the market away from nicotine products with its ban on flavors, its questions regarding the safety of nicotine products, and even the increased taxes placed on nicotine products. In doing so, they have called into question many of the reasons that adults have in making the switch from combustible tobacco to nicotine products.
Employment could suffer
The nicotine market has been growing rapidly in the last few years, with the online store, Nicokick, reporting quadruple sales of their nicotine products in 2020 in California alone. In turn, this has caused other positive outcomes, as Markus Lindblad, Head of External Affairs at the Haypp Group, Nicokick’s parent company, reports how Nicokick is “creating new American jobs at [their] distribution centers and commercial offices.” This is all due to the high demand for nicotine products, which could come to a standstill should the ban on flavors be passed. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting rise in unemployment, it would be unwise to cause further disruption to the job market.
Moreover, nicotine products could also be a more prudent choice with regards to the coronavirus, as they are non-combustible and will not cause more strain on airways.
As of yet, there is no definite date for when this ban will come into effect, and so there is still time to reconsider its scope. We can only hope that the FDA will realise the benefits of allowing nicotine products to retain their flavors.