Josh Barro, writing in New York magazine and quoting Marron Professor Mark Kleiman, suggests policy options for limiting the ill effects of vaping while also discouraging traditional cigarette use.
But there is another important policy tool that can limit the social cost of nicotine vape addiction, while also increasing the public-health benefits that can arise from a switch from smoking to vaping: placing further restrictions on traditional cigarettes.
Many adult smokers who take up vaping continue to use both cigarettes and vapes. Further increases in the taxes on traditional cigarettes, new restrictions on where they can be sold and smoked, bans on specific cigarette varieties and flavors, more aggressive public-health messages about the dangers of cigarettes, and the like could push more of these users to shift farther away from cigarettes and toward vapes, reducing their exposure to the carcinogens in cigarettes and improving life expectancy.
Some of the strongest arguments against higher cigarette-taxes are made weaker by the rise of vaping. One is that high taxes lead to black markets in untaxed cigarettes. Another is that cigarette taxes are highly regressive, with low-income households paying a higher fraction of their income in cigarette tax. Both of these concerns are eased by the availability of vapes, as smokers could avoid the higher taxes by switching, and the availability of lower-tax vape products would reduce black-market demand for cigarettes.