A new study from researchers at George Washington University and Stanford University is indicating that e-cigarette restrictions would have devastating effects on the health of young adults. Just last week, the highly esteemed Journal on Nicotine & Tobacco Research accepted an article manuscript that examines the potential impacts of vape prohibitions on cigarette and vaping use among 18-34 year olds. According to the study, a ban on flavored vaping products would cause 33.2% of young adult e-cigarette users to completely switch to traditional cigarettes and 39.4% would switch to cigarettes should all vape sales be restricted. 

The researchers noted that there are likely unintended consequences of restrictions on vaping. These include e-cigarette users switching to traditional cigarettes and youth initiation of traditional cigarettes rather than vaping products. Anti-vaping laws are often framed as legislation that will improve the health of young people, but ample evidence is emerging that demonstrates such laws have an opposite effect. 

In San Francisco, a ban on flavored tobacco products led to stark increases in youth smoking rates and more than doubled the odds of young people engaging in the deadly habit of cigarettes smoking. E-cigarettes have been shown to be at least 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes, therefore, use of e-cigarettes among young adults, which should be discouraged, is clearly preferable to cigarette use. 

The concerning findings from this most recent study are a critical addition to the ever-growing academic and scientific literature on vaping and tobacco use and should be acknowledged by lawmakers who seek to implement restrictive measures on e-cigarettes. The main findings of the study can be read below, while the full study is available here

Key Findings

  • If the sale of flavored vaping products was prohibited, 33.2% of young adult e-cigarette users would “very likely or somewhat likely” switch to traditional cigarettes. 

  • An additional 14.9% of users would switch to cigarettes while continuing to use e-cigarettes.  

  • If all vape product sales were restricted, 39.4% of e-cigarette users would likely switch to traditional cigarettes. 38.9% of e-cigarette users reported not at all likely to switch to traditional cigarettes. 

  • Survey participants who viewed a greater number of media reports about vaping, which spread misinformation and often use fear-based messaging, were more concerned with the health impacts of vaping and more likely to support restrictive vaping laws. 

The researchers, four of whom work at George Washington University’s Milken School of Public Health and one from Stanford University School of Medicine, utilized data from over two thousand survey respondents from six metropolitan areas in the United States. The locations (Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, San Diego, and Seattle) were selected due to variation in state policies regarding e-cigarettes and tobacco products. San Diego and Boston have stringent measures in place, while Oklahoma City and Atlanta have largely avoided implementing restrictive policies.  

The group most supportive of restrictive vaping laws is parents of teenage children. They falsely believe that such laws would keep their children safe and improve the health of young adults across the country. The findings of this study, paired with real-world evidence from San Francisco, show that bans on vape sales will do significantly more harm than good.  

While the researchers did not go so far as to declare restrictive vape laws as harmful to public health, they did state that young adult users of e-cigarettes “may not experience benefit” from these policies.  

Understanding the potential impacts of public policy is crucial. While more research should, and will, be done to further examine the impacts of bans on various e-cigarette products, the evidence is growing clearer. The laws that legislators claim are necessary to “protect the children” are increasing cigarette consumption among young people and subjecting them to immense amounts of harm. In the interests of public health, these laws, and those who spread lies and misinformation to promote them, must be thoroughly rejected.