Thursday, June 10, 2021

The War on Tobacco Flavors Is Another Element of the TIP-TOE Game Plan: Tacit Incremental Prohibition - Tobacco Elimination


In a recent interview with Strong and Free Podcast producer Christopher Balkaran, I explained why in the 1990’s I jumped from a conventional academic career into tobacco harm reduction research and policy analysis.  When I challenged conventional wisdom about smokeless tobacco, finding many of the attacks on it as unsupported and dishonest, I exposed a number of inconvenient truths about the tobacco control community. 

Alas, the first recognition of an important concept is frequently ignored, and eventually forgotten.  Dr. Philip Cole, my only tobacco research colleague and coauthor for nearly 10 years, wisely observed, “Our tobacco work will be ignored and vilified.  I prefer the latter, because it means that someone is noticing.

Today, there is a fresh push to ban tobacco flavoring, particularly menthol cigarettes and all vapor products.  The effort is largely driven by the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids and their allies, ostensibly to protect children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.  

The drive to ban flavors is not new.  In 2010, I commented on one of the first studies demonizing mint and wintergreen flavors in dip products.  The next year, I coined TIP-TOE, or Tacit Incremental Prohibition - Tobacco Elimination, as a moniker for the prohibitionists’ effort “to employ an escalating series of legislative and regulatory controls in order, over time, to remove all tobacco products from the marketplace.”  I noted that zealots “believe that a world without nicotine is both desirable and achievable, yet they are not courageous enough to demand outright prohibition. Instead, they’ve implemented the subtle TIP-TOE strategy of chipping away at consumer rights and industry initiatives… They would ban tobacco products that are almost risk-free, while assuring continued market dominance by vastly more hazardous cigarettes.  Using TIP-TOE tactics, tobacco prohibitionists are sprinting toward a public health disaster.” 

Flavor bans have predictable results, some of which are unintended by their prohibitionist promoters.  In the next blog I’ll discuss one consequence of the 2019 San Francisco flavor ban.   



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