Back in September, President Trump held a televised press conference about vaping. Citing the influx in teen vaping that has occurred over the past few years, Trump stated that he was planning to institute a ban on all e-liquid flavors except tobacco. More than three months later, the ban hasn’t happened. The speculation is that Trump backed off from the plan after seeing statistics suggesting that angry vapers would stifle the President’s bid for reelection in 2020 if their flavors are taken away.
The President blustering about something and then not following through with it is nothing new. In this case, though, Trump’s threat to ban flavored e-liquids may have had far-reaching consequences because other nations – most notably New Zealand – have suggested that they might do the same thing.
On the surface, banning e-liquid flavors might sound like a good way to stop teens from vaping. The idea is that, since kids like the flavors that are available, banning those flavors will make vaping less appealing. That’s a short-sighted solution, however, that isn’t likely to fix the problem. It’s also likely to do more harm than good.
Has Trump’s bluster managed to sink an entire nation’s vaping industry, or will common sense ultimately prevail? Here’s why a ban on flavored e-liquids is the wrong way forward for New Zealand.
A Flavor Ban Will Sink New Zealand’s Vape Shops
Most of the world’s vape shops sustain themselves primarily by selling e-liquid. That’s also true of New Zealand vape shops like Premium Vape. Vapers buy mods and tanks only occasionally, but they use e-liquid every day. If New Zealand pushes a flavor ban through, all of the country’s vape shops will go from having dozens – or even hundreds – of flavors available to having just a small handful of flavors. It would be just about impossible for most vape shops to sustain themselves on sales of tobacco, mint and menthol e-liquids alone. Most of New Zealand’s vape shops will likely either close or relocate to other nations.
Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Won’t Happen
It is the goal of New Zealand’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 movement to rid the nation of virtually all tobacco use over the next five years. With nearly 500,000 people still smoking in New Zealand, that’s a very tall order. Smokers have proven that traditional nicotine replacement therapies don’t work. If they did work, most developed nations would already be tobacco free. Vaping, on the other hand, does work. The world’s over 40 million vapers – people who used to smoke and now don’t – have provided ample evidence of that. The goal of every government should be to convince as many smokers as possible to switch to vaping if they’re going to use nicotine either way. The way to do that is by ensuring that vaping remains appealing and affordable. Tobacco e-liquids do not taste like real tobacco, so banning flavored e-liquids is not the way to make vaping an appealing option for smokers. Vaping is the only realistic way of reaching the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal.
A Flavor Ban Will Be Dangerous to Former Smokers
As the Prohibition era in the United States illustrated, banning a product that people want will not make that product go away. That’s also true of flavored e-liquid. Tens of thousands of former smokers in New Zealand have made the switch to vaping and are very happy to have done so. In the event of a flavor ban, some of those people will switch to whatever flavors are still legal. Others, however, will choose more dangerous options. Some vapers will go back to smoking, ruining what could have been an enormous win for public health in New Zealand. Others will use whatever means are necessary to get the e-liquid flavors that they want. Opportunists will try to make and sell their own e-liquids privately. Those e-liquids will be made in unsanitary environments with potentially dangerous ingredients. Nicotine poisonings and vaping-related illnesses will likely result. Vaping in New Zealand will go from a public health boon to a new liability for the healthcare system.
Australians Will Lose Their Favorite Source of E-Liquid
The vaping industry in New Zealand is an interesting case because New Zealand’s vape shops don’t just serve domestic vapers. New Zealand is also the preferred shopping destination for the nearly 250,000 people in Australia who vape. Through a unique combination of regulations and restrictions, vapers in Australia can’t buy nicotine e-liquid domestically – but they can import it for personal use. For Australians who do import their e-liquid, it makes perfect sense to buy it from New Zealand because the shipping speed is so fast. If New Zealand bans most e-liquid flavors, though, most Australians will take their business elsewhere. That’ll be greatly inconvenient for Australian vapers, who will need to order e-liquid in greater bulk to make up for the longer shipping times from nations such as the United Kingdom. It’ll also be a bit of a hit to New Zealand’s economy. As Australia’s population of vapers grows, e-liquid imports from other nations to Australia will increase as well. New Zealand’s vape shops won’t benefit from that increased business if they have no flavors to sell.
Big Tobacco Will Become More Powerful Than Ever in New Zealand
In the event of a flavored e-liquid ban in New Zealand, one thing is certain. The independent vaping industry might not make it through the ban, but Big Tobacco will come through stronger than ever. Tobacco company-owned brands like JUUL, Blu and Vuse have no problem pulling most of their flavors from the market. JUUL has already done that in the United States and hasn’t been hurt by the move at all. The Big Tobacco e-cigarette brands already have the best possible position in stores: right next to the cigarettes. The people who already buy those brands will continue buying them, and the rest will switch back to tobacco cigarettes. Either way, an e-liquid flavor ban in New Zealand would be hugely beneficial for Big Tobacco.