Dear City Council,
I am writing in regard to Missoula’s proposed ordinance, which would ban the sale of flavored-tobacco products, including most vaping products. I am the Western region director for the R Street Institute, which is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that does work in the area of tobacco harm reduction.
We appreciate that the City Council has sent the measure back to the Public Safety and Health Committee to assure that it conforms with Montana’s law limiting the ability of localities to impose restrictions that are more stringent than state standards. However, we’d urge the council to consider the broader ramifications of its approach.
Virtually all e-cigarettes use flavored liquids. Banning the sale of such liquids will create unnecessary difficulties for smokers to switch to these less-harmful products. We recognize the negative effects of smoking and support policies that move smokers toward less harmful alternatives.
In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians, one of the most venerable professional medical bodies in the world, published an authoritative report demonstrating the long-term health hazard posed by e-cigarettes is less than 5 percent of the harm from smoking. E-cigarettes are not totally safe, of course, and measures need to be taken to keep them out of the hands of underage people. But they need to be available in Missoula to help smokers quit a more-dangerous habit.
If, for instance, cigarette smokers can no longer find vaping liquids or lower-risk products such as snus throughout the city, they will be more likely to keep smoking cigarettes, which will still be available at their local convenience store. FDA-approved cessation aids such as nicotine patches and gum can help, too, but many smokers prefer vaping as an alternative.
Here are links to some of R Street’s relevant studies:
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Western Region Director
R Street Institute