Thursday, August 08, 2013

Proposed New York City Ordinance Declares that Electronic Cigarettes are Designed to Deter Smokers from Quitting, Then Bans the Sale of Flavored Electronic Cigarettes

Today, I reveal that a proposed New York City ordinance would ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes on the basis that these products are designed to deter smokers from quitting.

According to the preamble of the ordinance: "Electronic cigarette marketing is often designed to deter smokers from quitting... ."

On this basis, the ordinance goes on to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes. While plain tobacco-"flavored" e-cigarettes could still be sold, the ordinance would ban the sale of a wide variety of flavored e-cigarettes. These flavors are central to the success of these products and the ordinance, if enacted, would likely decimate the sale of electronic cigarettes in New York City.

The Rest of the Story

I have to say that this statement (that electronic cigarette marketing is designed to deter smokers from quitting) is the most inane one I have heard in a long time. In fact, it is the most inane statement I've heard since Anthony Weiner declared that his having texted inappropriate photos makes him a stronger candidate for mayor of New York City.

Let's analyze the stupidity of this statement. We'll start with a simple question:

What is it that an electronic cigarette company wants its customers to do?
a. Continue smoking lots of tobacco cigarettes but try an electronic cigarette once in a while;
b. Continue smoking a moderate number of tobacco cigarettes but also a moderate number of electronic cigarettes; or
c. Completely replace tobacco cigarettes with electronic cigarettes so that the individual is buying the maximum possible number of electronic cigarette cartridges.

If you answered C, you are correct. If you answered A, then you are probably the individual who authored this inane ordinance.

It defies logic that an electronic cigarette company would want its customers to continue smoking tobacco cigarettes. If that is the marketing strategy for your company, you are going to go out of business very quickly. Of course, the objective of every e-cigarette company's marketing strategy is to encourage smokers to quit smoking and to switch completely to electronic cigarettes.

In fact, I defy the New York City council to identify one (1) electronic cigarette company that discourages its customers from quitting smoking.

The truth is that the very purpose of electronic cigarettes is the complete opposite of what the New York city council is apparently suggesting. Their purpose is to get smokers to quit smoking by completely substituting electronic cigarettes for tobacco cigarettes. All of the marketing for these products is designed not to deter smokers from quitting but to encourage smokers to quit.

The proposed ban on electronic cigarettes is equally inane.

Why would New York City want to protect the sales of the most hazardous type of tobacco product on the market - cigarettes - but ban the sale of a product (electronic cigarettes) that literally hundreds of thousands of people across the country are using in order to quit smoking and is the safest available nicotine-containing non-medical product on the market? This makes no public health sense.

Thousands of smokers have successfully quit smoking using electronic cigarettes and many more thousands have substantially cut down on the amount that they smoke. Moreover, there is no evidence that these products have become popular among youth or nonsmokers. Thus, the availability of these products is leading to substantial health improvement on a population basis without any observable downside. Why would any city council want to put an end to this?

The only entities that will be protected by this regulation are the tobacco industry, which will benefit because smokers who might otherwise have quit will continue smoking, and the pharmaceutical industry, which will benefit because smokers who might have used electronic cigarettes to quit will be forced to continue spending their money on smoking cessation drugs that are largely ineffective.

The real effect of this regulation would be to protect the conventional cigarette market from competition. And unfortunately, that competition is currently in the form of truly reduced risk products: electronic cigarettes.

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