Reason Roundup

Teen Cigarette Smoking Went Up Following Flavored Tobacco Ban 

Plus: Debate over critical race theory bans, Oklahoma City takes on major occupational licensing reform, and more...


"Restrictions on flavored tobacco product sales are increasingly popular," notes Yale School of Public Health researcher Abigail S. Friedman in JAMA Pediatrics. Five states "and hundreds of localities have implemented them in the past few years alone." They're generally instituted under the banner of protecting teenagers, who are assumed to be more likely than adults to dig flavored smokes and vapes.

But do these bans really encourage healthier behaviors among young people? New evidence suggests that they do not. In fact, they could actually drive up cigarette smoking rates among teens and young adults.

"Given the relative health costs of smoking vs vaping nicotine, flavor bans that increase smoking may prove harmful," Friedman points out.

In newly published research, she looked at youth smoking rates in San Francisco, which banned flavored tobacco products—including flavored cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids—in June 2018. Previous research suggested the ban actually increased cigarette smoking in 18- to 24-year-olds while decreasing overall tobacco product use in 18- to 34-year-olds. Friedman wanted to measure the ban's effect on high school students under 18.

Using data from the 2011-2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), Friedman was able to look at under-18 cigarette smoking rates in Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Florida's Broward, Palm Beach, and Orange counties. This allowed her to compare youth smoking in San Francisco with districts that did not ban flavored cigarettes and vaping products.

"Comparing recent smoking rates by wave revealed similar trends in San Francisco vs other districts prior to 2018 but subsequent divergence," writes Friedman of her findings. "San Francisco's flavor ban was associated with more than doubled odds of recent smoking among underage high school students relative to concurrent changes in other districts."

"While the policy applied to all tobacco products, its outcome was likely greater for youths who vaped than those who smoked due to higher rates of flavored tobacco use among those who vaped," she adds. "This raises concerns that reducing access to flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems may motivate youths who would otherwise vape to substitute smoking. Indeed, analyses of how minimum legal sales ages for electronic nicotine delivery systems are associated with youth smoking also suggest such substitution."


Are bans on teaching "critical race theory" (CRT) in schools against the First Amendment? A growing number of states have seen Republican legislators introducing such measures. (Ohio is the latest to see such a bill introduced, the Texas Senate just approved one, and Tennessee's governor just signed one.) These bans have drawn ample criticism from the left. But a number of heterodox thinkers, including Thomas Chatterton Williams and Kmele Foster, also have qualms about them:

"The past year has convinced me freedom of expression has to be nearly absolute," added Williams. "Hitchens is right: 'Every time you violate or propose to violate the free speech of someone else, in potentia, you're making a rod for your own back.' It always comes back at you."

They, in turn, have also received pushback from folks also outside the typical U.S. left-right culture war spectrum:

Meanwhile, others are calling bullshit on the idea that these bills properly define critical race theory in the first place:


Major occupational licensing reform in Oklahoma City: 


• The American Civil Liberties Union is suing over Arkansas' ban on certain treatments for transgender minors.

• Here's an interesting thread on home sales data from the CEO of Redfin:

• The Mercatus Center's Liya Palagashvili on "four 'gig work' misconceptions driving counterproductive reforms."

• Tennessee's governor has "signed into law measures to divert more people away from state prisons and to expand support services for people who are leaving prisons after serving their sentences," reports the Tennessean.

• More criticism of Florida's new law banning some social media from booting politicians.

In Maine, "the legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Monday to recommend a measure that would decriminalize prostitution."

• Colorado is following in Ohio and Maryland's footsteps with a lottery for only people who have been vaccinated.