Albuquerque. Phoenix. Tucson. Mesa. Virginia Beach. All terrific vacation spots. And also great for vaping.
A new report by the R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based free-market think tank, ranked 52 cities on their regulatory environment for vaping, with Virginia’s largest city coming out on top with a grade of A+. The three Arizona cities and Albuquerque were the others that earned an A grade.
At the bottom with F grades were Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle and eight cities in the regulatory purgatory of California — Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.
“If the goal of tobacco policy is to reduce public harm, then alternative products that move smokers away from cigarettes should receive favorable treatment under the law,” write Cameron Smith and Dan Semelsberger, the study’s authors.
Cities that get in the way of that goal got low grades from R Street. Of the F grades, the study cites Minneapolis as the worst “by a significant margin.”
“The city, state and county regulations imposed within Minneapolis patently fail to recognize the potential of vapor products to reduce tobacco harm,” the authors write. “Conditions are so bad that the city is home to a tax paradigm that actually favors cigarettes over vapor.”
The analysis cites extensive research in making the case that current efforts to subject e-cigarette users to the same taxes and restrictions as cigarette smokers may undermine the public health benefits associated with the healthier alternative.
Environmental prohibitions, excise taxes and retail licensing regulations are among the factors considered in assigning each city a grade. In addition to these empirical measures, the assessment also considered each city’s “harm reduction climate,” which rewards cities for government public information campaigns that spread accurate information regarding the health effects of vaping, and sanction cities in which public officials have equated vaping and cigarette smoking.
The report reaches a rather pessimistic conclusion regarding the current legislative environment, asserting that the policy area is “rife with misinformation” produced by politically motivated actors in an effort to replace declining cigarette tax revenue at the expense of public health.
The authors of the study conclude with a definitive policy recommendation.
“Rather than arbitrarily and unscientifically drawing the conclusion that cigarettes and vapor products are equivalent, public officials should consider policies [that] treat vapor products proportionally to their health impacts,” they write.