This January, South Carolina became the most recent state to propose imposing preemptive legislation that would prohibit local municipalities from enforcing flavor bans and restricting the sale of electronic cigarettes.
The proposal to introduce a preemption on electronic cigarettes products came after the Myrtle Beach city council banned the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes along the beachfront areas of the city. S 498 would add South Carolina to a list of 12 other states who already have preemptive legislation covering electronic cigarettes.
Preemptive legislation bans local governments from implementing their own regulations on e-cigarettes, protecting small business vape shops from higher compliance costs and consumers from bans and higher prices on e-cigarettes. New preemptions should be introduced by state legislatures to shield consumers from harmful and unscientific city ordinances that overregulate electronic cigarettes.
Officials that oppose the use of preemption laws argue they limit the ability of municipalities to address health issues in their communities. In the case of e-cigarettes, however, the cities are harming their own residents by enforcing bans and other restrictions on products that can have significant health benefits.
Preemption laws ensure consumers across the state have access to e-cigarettes which have been shown through scientific studies to be safer than tobacco alternatives. A recent study conducted by Public Health England this year re-confirmed that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are much safer than traditional tobacco products, and banning these devices leaves consumers with only harmful tobacco products.
Smoking tobacco products is widely known to have fatal long-term effects that can be avoided by the use of electronic cigarettes. Around 7,200 adults in South Carolina and 480,000 nationwide die each year from smoking related illnesses. E-cigarettes, on the other hand, do not have the same long-term effects, making them considerably safer than combustible nicotine products. Preemptions keep e-cigarette products on the shelves as a lifesaving device and ensure consumers have access to alternatives to tobacco products for smokers.
Not only are e-cigarettes safer than traditional combustible tobacco products, but they are also effective in helping people quit smoking. A summary published in the Cochrane Library Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that e-cigarettes prevented 67% more smokers from returning to cigarettes than those using nicotine-replacement therapies such as patches or gum. Without preemptions, smokers in cities with heavy regulations would be left without the most effective cessation device, limiting their ability to quit consuming harmful tobacco products.
These facts show e-cigarettes are an incredibly useful tool in improving health outcomes for smokers. Studies have shown that if every smoker in the U.S. chose to switch to e-cigarettes could save 6.6 million lives over the next decade, according to a research report from Georgetown University Medical Center. Preemption laws guarantee that smokers continue to have widespread access to e-cigarettes.
Preemptions do not only have benefits for consumers, but they also keep regulatory compliance costs for small business vape shops low. Two-thirds of vape shop owners stated in a 2015 survey that local regulations restricting or banning flavored e-cigarettes would impose significant harm on their businesses. State preemptions prevent cities from imposing extra costs on businesses that may significantly affect their bottom lines.
Higher compliance costs for businesses who face already expensive regulations will increase prices consumers pay. The National Bureau of Economic Research stated in a study that e-cigarette taxes, another strategy used to limit consumption are, “passed through to e-cigarette prices.” As prices in cities with regulations increase, consumers have two choices, smoke harmful alternatives or purchase the more expensive, but healthier option. Low income consumers, who are also the most likely to smoke, will not be able to flee to other cities and would have to absorb higher costs they cannot afford.
Preemption laws on e-cigarettes benefit consumers stopping harmful regulations or bans that cities place on e-cigarette devices. E-cigarettes are safe and effective cessation devices for smokers, and preemptions ensure vapor products are readily available to consumers who want to quit smoking. Preemptions should continue to be introduced in other states like Montana where local regulations banning sales on vapor products have emerged, cutting off smokers’ access to e-cigarettes and threatening to close small business vape shops. Doing so will guarantee consumers have access to the best smoking cessation alternative available.