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On June 25th when the rest of the tobacco harm reduction world was focused on fighting against an importation ban on safer nicotine in Australia, the California State Senate approved SB 793, a ‘flavor ban’ which would prohibit anyone in the state from selling “Any flavored tobacco product”, which would include THR products like nicotine vapor, snus, and other smokeless tobacco. 

The bill’s author, Sen. Jerry Hill claimed that flavored vapor products are “death bait” that “insidiously entice children, teens, and others into unhealthy habits,” cite data showing youth vaping rates increasing over the last few years – however we know that looking at those numbers alone can be misleading.

A recent survey conducted by the CDC shows that the number one reason for teens to try these products is not flavors – but because of curiosity. As a matter of fact, only 22% of the youth surveyed said flavors played a part in their decision to try. 

And there is research that backs up that fact. As we reported just 2 weeks ago, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that flavors are associated with increased smoking cessation yet not with increased youth smoking initiation. 

The study, authored by Dr. Abigail Friedman of the Yale school of public health showed that for adults who use flavored alternative nicotine products, the odds of cessation were 2.3 times that of those who used tobacco-flavored products. She also goes on to suggest that efforts to ban flavored e-cigarettes could increase smoking, calling it “too blunt an instrument”

And guess what, there is data on that as well. A study published in early June with the goal of assessing the impact of a similar flavor ban in San Francisco suggested that “comprehensive local flavor bans, by themselves, cannot sharply reduce usage rates” An interesting note from that study however was that in the 18-24 range of those surveyed cigarette smoking increased from 27.4% to 37.1%. While it was a small sample size, this is directly in line with the conclusion Dr. Friedman came to as well. 

The good news in all of this is that Californians can still make their voices heard. The bill does need to be passed through the CA Statehouse before it even hits Gov. Neewsome’s desk and organizations like CASSA and the AVA are organizing petitions and calling on those individuals in CA to call email and text their representatives to ensure this does not move further forward. 

We will continue to track this as it unfolds so make sure to follow VIDA dot News for those updates.

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