• June 5, 2020

Report tracks harm-reduction policies

As electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-vapor products grow in popularity, US state and local jurisdictions that rely extensively on revenues from cigarette taxes face new challenges in determining which policies best promote public health, a new R Street Institute policy study has found.

R Street describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organization whose mission is to promote free markets and limited, effective government. In a press note, the study’s authors, state programs director Cameron Smith and research associate Dan Semelsberger, said they had examined the tax and regulatory environments for electronic cigarettes and nicotine-vapor products across 52 major US cities, evaluating the degree to which each promoted a harm-reduction approach to tobacco. ‘Our first Vapescore analysis reveals a rapidly developing policy area rife with misinformation and heavily motivated by a political desire to replace declining cigarette revenues,’ Smith and Semelsberger wrote.

‘We anticipate our scoring to change significantly in future iterations of Vapescore, as more state and local governments actively develop policies for emerging alternatives to cigarettes.

‘We likely will need to address novel products, such as so-called “heat-not-burn” offerings, as they become available in the United States.’ The report is said to focus specifically on currently available vapor products that most nearly replicate the smoking experience, but without the harmful tar and other chemicals that cause cancer and a host of other smoking-related diseases. ‘As vapor products and other less harmful alternatives to cigarettes gain a proportionally larger share of the marketplace, policymakers must carefully ensure that the quest for tax revenues doesn’t undermine the laudable goal of imprevidence-paperoving public health,’ the authors said.

‘Rather than arbitrarily and unscientifically drawing the conclusion that cigarettes and vapor products are equivalent, public officials should consider policies treat vapor products proportionally to their health impacts.’ The full report, including sources and methodology, is available here: http://www.vapescore.org/