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E-Cig Regulation Likely to Burn Low-Income Americans

September 27, 2018 in Economics

By Vanessa Brown Calder

Vanessa Brown Calder

The FDA is tied in knots over e-cigarette use. On the one hand,
the FDA does not want people to smoke. But, on the other hand, the
FDA does not want people to use smoking alternatives that could
help them quit, such as e-cigarettes. To that end, the FDA recently
signaled its interest in increasing regulation of e-cigarettes
including Altria’s MarkTen and British American Tobacco’s Vuse,
with an eye towards protecting teens from potential health
effects.

As FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb put it:

[Some say] in order to protect kids, [the FDA] is going to
encumber adult smokers by putting in place restrictions that make
these products less attractive, or harder to purchase by adults.
These things may all be true.

But although the commissioner recognizes new regulation could
negatively impact adult e-cigarette consumers, he does not consider
that new restrictions may disproportionately affect the poor.

This is likely for three reasons. First, low-income and
low-skill Americans are more likely to smoke traditional
cigarettes, and more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes
heavily. For example, the CDC finds the prevalence of smoking is around two
times as high for smokers below the U.S. poverty line as for
smokers at twice the poverty level. Likewise, adults with less than
a high school education are more than 2.5 times as likely to smoke
as adults with a college degree.

Second, when it comes to quitting smoking, poor and
less-educated Americans have the hardest time. A CDC report suggests that smokers with less than
a high school degree are less than half as likely to report
recently quitting smoking as smokers with graduate degrees. And
adults at or above the poverty level are more likely to report
recently quitting than those below the poverty level.

Evidence suggests
e-cigarettes are an easy way for poor American smokers to improve
their health. Unfortunately, future restrictions may change
that.

Third, poor and less-educated Americans are more likely to use
e-cigarettes. According to a recent study, 10.2 percent of individuals in households with
between $0-$20,000 of income have used e-cigarettes, whereas about
half as many individuals in households with $75,000 of annual
income or more have used e-cigarettes. Education levels break the
same way: Around twice as many individuals with less than a high
school degree have ever used an e-cigarette, compared to
individuals with a college degree or more.

Why does this matter? Low income and less-educated Americans
report lower levels of access to health care and poorer health
outcomes along a variety of metrics. E-cigarettes ostensibly
provide an affordable avenue to improve health for smokers that
can’t afford professional help …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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