On Thursday, the Trump administration announced it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint, and dessert flavors from cartridge-based e-cigarettes that are popular with high school students and young adults within the next 30 days. However, menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market.
Following the news, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) followed the announcement with disturbing statistics that there have now over 2,500 hospitalized cases of lung injury associated with use of e-cigarettes, or vaping products in all 50 states. Additionally, with the latest research, scientists have narrowed down the cause of the recent lung disease epidemic to black-market marijuana vapes cartridges containing a particular agent, vitamin E acetate.
The flavored cartridge ban will exclude large, tank-based vaping devices that cater to older adult smokers.
While an original plan four months ago was to eliminate all vaping flavors, the new policy is a victory for thousands of vape shop owners around the country, targeted towards older adults.
Vape Cartridges & The Vaping Crisis
The new policy represents the government’s biggest step to challenge the spike in teen vaping that many fear is hooking young people on nicotine. According to the most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than five million kids and teenagers used e-cigarettes in 2019, up from 3.6 million the year before. While 60% of those said their go-to e-cigarette was Juul, one million said they used an e-cigarette daily.
Juul, the most popular product appealing to teens, pulled its fruity flavors off the market in response to the headlines of teen vaping. However R.J. Reynolds, Imperial Brands, and e-cigarette brand NJOY still sell flavored products that will be affected by the ban.
In addition, some public health groups have also anticipated that vape cartridges makers could switch their labeling from mint to menthol to bypass the new ban. However, the FDA would “seriously consider taking enforcement action” if that happened, said Mitch Zeller, director of its Center for Tobacco Products.
Though, with opposing sides House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), in a new release urged Congress to pass a more restrictive bill. “A so-called flavor ban that exempts menthol and vape shops is not ban at all.” He urged Congress to pass a restrictive bill, Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, which Pallone’s committee passed in November.
However, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stated that the new policy will, “seek to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as potential off-ramps for adults who smoke.”
Companies that don’t stop making and distributing the restricted products within 30 days risk penalties by the FDA, including fines and seizures.
Will It Actually Help?
While it’s not clear the new ban will do much to combat teen vaping, a survey from the National Review found that teens are already more likely to get their products from vape shops rather than convenience stores. However, making cartridges less available in mainstream convenience stores can’t hurt, though the new rules won’t stop an adult smoker, or a vaping adult from using whatever flavor they like.
The new policy has also been noted as temporary until May 12 – when the FDA will ban any product for which the manufacturer has not submitted an application for FDA approval.
Officials also noted that products submitted by the deadline that don’t appeal to kids will be permitted to remain on the market for up to one year pending FDA review. They also clarified that some vape cartridges could return to the market if they can win FDA approval.
“We have to protect our families,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday, ahead of the announcement. “At the same time, it’s a big industry. We want to protect the industry.”
OUTBREAK UPDATE: As of 12/27, 2,561 hospitalized cases of lung injury associated with use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products or deaths reported from all 50 states, DC, & 2 US territories (Puerto Rico & USVI). 55 deaths were confirmed in 27 states & DC. https://t.co/C2yOBR2GmX pic.twitter.com/Rd2zObbrIP
— CDC (@CDCgov) January 2, 2020