Tag Archives: Ecigarette

Partial Ban on E-Cigarette Flavors Is Issued

Partial Ban on E-Cigarette Flavors Is Issued

The Trump administration confirmed Thursday that it will forbid the sale of most flavored e-cigarette cartridges, but is exempting menthol and tobacco flavors as well as other devices for flavored liquid nicotine sold in vape shops.

In a statement the Department of Health and Human Services said that starting a month from now it would take action against any companies that were still selling e-cigarette cartridges — or pods — in mint, fruit or dessert flavors, as part of its effort to reduce the soaring rate of teenage vaping.

“By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth,” said Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary. “We will not stand idly by as this crisis among America’s youth grows and evolves, and we will continue monitoring the situation and take further actions as necessary.”

The announcement backtracks from plans President Trump and Mr. Azar announced in September that would have banned all flavors, including mint and menthol. By also exempting menthol and preserving the flavored liquids typically sold in retail or vape shops, the administration may be hoping to avoid a legal battle with the tobacco industry; the compromise also reflects intense lobbying by the vaping and tobacco industries.

The companies had complained that a full ban on flavored e-cigarettes would put thousands of vape shops out of business, and punish adults who have switched to e-cigarettes from smoking. In recent months, Mr. Trump has pointed out the effects on businesses and the industry, whose trade groups have visited with White House officials routinely since a potential ban was made public.

Administration officials have also pointed to surveys that showed that teenagers chose other flavors rather than menthol. It’s unclear to what extent teenage vapers use open tank systems, which require the user to add flavored liquids to vaping devices that convert them into an inhalable aerosol. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former F.D.A. commissioner, described open tank devices as “largely an adult culture” in a speech in November, adding that “the biggest problem are the pod products.”

In Thursday’s statement, Mr. Azar noted that teenagers prefer cartridge-based products in part because they are “both easy to use and easily concealable.” Flavored pods sold by Juul had become extremely popular among teenagers, a trend that prompted backlash against the San-Francisco based company. Juul has withdrawn many of its flavors from the market under public and regulatory pressure, and faces several federal and state investigations into its marketing practices.

The statement also said the restrictions on flavors should not be considered a “ban,” a move that probably reflects the sentiments of Mr. Trump, who on New Year’s Eve characterized this action as “temporary.”

Companies with e-cigarettes and accessories like pods have been allowed on the market under extensions granted by the F.D.A. No substantive evidence or review process has indicated that the products are safe for long-term use or that they are successful as smoking cessation devices.

But a review process is now underway, with manufacturers required to submit applications to the agency to prove that they are not a public health risk by May of this year. That means that some of the products targeted under the enforcement action announced Thursday could ultimately be approved and re-enter the market.

Public health experts have long called for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes as a way of curbing youth nicotine use, but the federal government has until now failed to take such steps even as the popularity of such products has exploded.

In 2016, the Obama administration backtracked on a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration to ban flavors in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, and similar proposals by the Trump administration have also failed to materialize. In 2018 and last year, the F.D.A. began to propose curbs on sales of certain flavors and cracked down on stores selling to minors in an effort to reduce the use of e-cigarettes by teenagers.

The administration’s decision to largely spare vape shops from the flavor ban reflects an intense lobbying campaign by the vaping industry. Just this weekend, the Vapor Technology Association, an industry trade group, said it had bought television ad time on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC to air its “I Vote” commercials in the Palm Beach, Fla., area to catch the attention of Mr. Trump while he was at Mar-a-Lago.

Mr. Trump has signaled for months that he was hesitant to enact a full ban on flavors. In a televised White House meeting in November, he said he worried that a full ban would drive people seeking flavors to unsafe, illicit products. And his advisers have warned him that a flavor ban would hurt him with his base and could depress turnout in battleground states.

The growth in teen use of e-cigarettes — specifically the sleek Juul device — has mirrored an explosion in flavored products with names that seem targeted to the tastes of children, such as cotton candy and unicorn milk. Recent government data showed that a quarter of high school seniors have vaped e-cigarettes in the past month, even as their use of traditional cigarettes has fallen.

The current debate over a flavor ban was set off by twin public health crises: soaring rates of youth vaping that experts feared was getting a new generation addicted to nicotine and the recent outbreak of severe lung injuries largely related to vaping THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana. More than 2,500 people have been hospitalized since mid-August, and more than 54 people have died.

While the vaping and tobacco industries, along with conservative groups, opposed the restrictions that had been proposed by the F.D.A., they generally backed raising the national age for sales of all tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21. Congress passed the measure late last year and Mr. Trump signed it into law.

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