It looks like Federal regulators are gearing up to announce a ban on e-cigarette flavors, permitting only tobacco and menthol any time now. It remains to be seen whether mint flavor will be allowed in the market, or will be reformulated as menthol.
Aside from that, there is a possibility that vape products that are currently sold in vape stores rather than convenience stores – the shopping spot for under-age vapers will be immune from the aforesaid ban. The under-aged youth is the focus of the ban often shops.
Back in March, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration Commissioner) Dr. Scott Gottlieb suggested implementing a ban on the sale of all flavors except tobacco in convenience stores; however, it noted that more efforts might be needed if the youth vaping rates cannot be minimized.
Gottlieb refused to react on White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway’s advice Wednesday stating that vape stores do not come under the authority of regulators. Late Wednesday, A group of medical and advocacy groups released a statement finding flaws with the probable vape shops exemption.
“If vape shops are allowed to continue selling flavored e-cigarettes, kids will find ways to obtain them,” said the statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and Truth Initiative.
If the vape shops exemption come to fruition, “it will be a capitulation to the e-cigarette industry at the expense of America’s kids and it will not stem the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic,” the statement.
The groups alluded to research published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this year that showed California vape shops were more likely to sell vape products to consumers without first verifying his/her age. The chances of this happening with any other retailers are comparatively lower.
Last week, Gottlieb said that e-cigarette company Juul could sell its mass-produced mint flavor menthol by renaming it; however, it might not opt to do so since it is currently facing a lot of scrutinies.
President Trump announced the ban on the sale of all flavors except tobacco in September. This triggered a downpour of pressing from pro-vaping groups and vapers. In the wake of this opposition, the Administration decided to soften on an outright ban, but the move prompted anti-vaping groups to step up their vocal opposition.
The action follows a nationwide epidemic of over 1,600 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, which claimed about 34 lives. It is worth mentioning here that most of these cases involved vape products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The impending ban announcement was teased on Monday when the Office of Management and Budget revealed it concluded its review of the rules and decided to cancel its meetings with industry and consumer interests that were slated to take place in the near future. Aside from that, Conway said an announcement is in transit.
Hey @realDonaldTrump @parscale if you attempt to take away my right to vape fruit and dessert flavors, you are no better than the left. I was Trump 2016 but will I be #Trump2020 ? You decide. Take away my rights, we will take you out of office. #WeVapeWeVote
— Ryan Haynes (@r_haynes90) October 27, 2019
On Tuesday, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared findings that were highlighted in September when President Trump and Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary announced they are considering banning the sale of vape products. The use of e-cigarettes among high school students has more than doubled from 2017 to 2019 to 27.5 percent.
Nearly 5.3 million middle and high school students were reported using e-cigarettes in 2019, up from 3.6 million last year. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says high school students switched to mint flavor after Juul discontinued selling flavors such as mango in November.
“These findings underscore why the Trump Administration must stand strong and implement its plan to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “If menthol or any other flavors are left on the market, the evidence is clear that kids will move to them and this epidemic will continue.”
According to Gregory Conley, who is the founder and president of the American Vaping Association, which doesn’t support the Administration’s decision to ban e-cigarette flavors, the ban will hardly make any difference in youth vaping.
“Young people are not using Juul because of the flavors,” said Conley. “They are using it for the strong nicotine hit, so even a ban on menthol would be unlikely to deter risk-seeking youth from continuing to experiment with the products.”
Most manufacturers that make e-cigarettes with pre-filled cartridges offer menthol flavors, Conley said.
“It’s just not as good as mint, so not a lot of people use it when mint is available,” he added.
The agencies reported an all-time low as far as cigarette smoking among high school students is concerned, but vaping has regrettably reversed the progress made in the overall reduction in tobacco use among youth. The liquid in e-cigarette cartridges contains tobacco, which is highly addictive.
Discussing the matter with reporters Wednesday morning, Conway said, “The only thing that’s really changed from the first lady’s original tweet on Sept. 9 is that the data are much more harrowing and concerning than we would have suspected.”
She went as far as making a distinction between electronic cigarettes and vaping. “I think we should all stop using vaping and e-cigarettes interchangeably. They are different.” Conway even suggested that vape shops are more likely to exempt simply because regulators do not have any sort of authority over them.
“So HHS has, and the FDA has jurisdiction over cigarettes and e-cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act. They do not have jurisdiction over vaping and vape shops, for example,” she said. “So, if we’re talking about e-cigarettes, the President, yes, he’s been discussing this with his team and he will, or the HHS will make an announcement soon.”
According to Dr. Josh Sharfstein, former FDA principal deputy commissioner and now a Johns Hopkins University public health professor, any probable exemptions could negatively impact the overall influence of a flavor ban.
“The role of flavors for youth is extremely important given this incredible explosion of youth use,” said Sharstein, also director of the Bloomberg Initiative on America’s Health at Johns Hopkins.
Drawing a bright line between the age of vapers and enforcement, Conway said, “The demarcation is really kids and adults. And we’re very focused on the burgeoning health care crisis among kids.”
Electronic cigarette makers including Juul have been accused of targeting youth by offering flavors like mango, mint, menthol, etc. Aside from that, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a safer cessation tool, which means smokers who want to kick the conventional butt can resort to using vape products without risking their lives or exposing themselves to the dangers of serious health issues such as cancer.