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“Temporary” Partial Flavor Ban On Vaping Products

9 months, 3 weeks ago

4694  0
Posted on Jan 02, 2020, 9 p.m.

In an initiative to reduce the amount of e-cigarettes being smoked by teenagers a compromise has been met in a temporary partial ban, with sales of most flavored pods popular with youth being banned but flavored liquid nicotine for open tank devices being exempt in attempted action of the current administration against the increasingly growing numbers of teens vaping. 

Groups representing thousands of vape shops nationwide quickly rallied in recent weeks to create a “We Vape, We Vote” social media campaigns that urged the current administration not to follow through with the ban. Despite their efforts the administration recently announced a policy that reflects a compromise, one that keeps industry groups happy while partially appeasing parents and public health officials who are concerned over nicotine addiction and the effects on teenagers/youths. 

Officials say that they are banning the sale of most flavored e-cigarette cartridges but are exempting menthol and tobacco flavors as well as flavored liquid nicotine sold in open tank systems at vape shops. Starting February 2020 federal officials will be taking action against companies that are still making/selling e-cigarette cartridges/pods in mint, fruit, or dessert flavors as part of their efforts to reduce the increasing 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.

A poll was circulated showing the battleground states of the president’s supporters who opposed regulations against vaping, while some others were in favour, but this poll was commissioned by a vaping industry group, and ultimately the poll and those who resisted any crackdown lost to the advisors who want to keep such products away from young people for their own safety and health.

“The past administration failed to address the rising crises with opioids and fentanyl, which have claimed countless lives and devastated communities,” Ms. Kellyanne Conway said in a statement. “The president and the first lady refuse to look away when data show over five million youth are illegally using e-cigarettes and vaping products. The F.D.A.’s guidance balances the protection of children’s health and the protection of adults rights.”

The industry pleaded that the full ban on flavored e-cigarettes will put thousand of vape shops out of business and punish adults who had switched to vape from traditional cigarettes, and the current administration has also publicly acknowledged the potential for adverse effects on the industry who have regularly lobbied over the potential ban. 

Some officials also point to a survey showing that young people prefer flavors like mint, fruits, desserts, and menthol over tobacco. While it is unclear to what extent younger vaper use open tank systems that require flavored liquids to be added to devices that then convert them into an inhalable aerosol, this ban is a kind of backwards start, but still a start.

Just banning some flavored pods seems useless, open tanks systems are still available and this “temporary” partial ban will not make a difference. Even though younger vapers prefer cartridge based vape products because they were easier to use as well as conceal, now they will just use the open tank devices, it’s common sense on the need/want and supply/demand levels. This temporary ban really changes nothing other than creating loopholes. 

Juul flavored pods have become extremely popular among teens, the company has withdrawn many of its flavors and faces several charges as well as federal and state investigations into its marketing practices. 

Companies with e-cigarette and accessory like pods have been allowed on the market under extension granted by the FDA, even though there is no evidence or review process that has ever indicated that these products are safe for long term use, or that they are successful in getting people to stop smoking. 

An FDA review process is now underway, and manufacturers are now required to submit applications by May 2020 to prove that their products are not a public health risk. This means that some of the products targeted under the enforcement action just recently announced could either be completely removed or approved and re-enter the market, which may be why the partial ban is being referred to as being temporary. 

Public health experts have been calling for a ban on flavored cigarettes and e-cigarettes as a way of curbing youth nicotine use for a long time. In 2016 the Obama administration backtracked a proposal by the FDA to ban flavors in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, and similar proposals to the Trump administration have also failed. In 2018 the US FDA began to propose curbs on sales of certain flavors as well as a crackdown on retailers selling to minors. 

Amidst the mysterious vaping illness that has affected thousands of young people this administration’s “temporary ban”  is no more than a loophole that is a decision which largely spares vape shops from the flavor ban, and it only reflects the intense lobbying campaign by the industry and the lack of conviction by the current administration to follow through and show that it cares more about people, specifically the easily influenced youth of America, than money.

“The minute you saw cotton candy flavors — come on,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who had warned since 2013 of the harms to adolescents. “Everything that could have been done should have been done to get them off the market.”

The growth of smoking menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes in teens mirrors a proliferation of thousands of flavored products with names that appear to be tailored to target the tastes of younger people such as cotton candy and unicorn milk, recent government data has shown that over a quarter of all high school seniors had vaped in the past month. The American Medical Association was among a number of medical and public health groups that call the new restrictions a good step, but even they say it is not enough:

"If we are serious about tackling this epidemic and keeping these harmful products out of the hands of young people,” the association said in a statement, “a total ban on all flavored e-cigarettes — in all forms and at all locations — is prudent and urgently needed.” It also said it was “disappointed that menthol flavors — one of the most popular — will still be allowed.”

Last quarter results have not been reported yet but the vaping and tobacco industry is on track to surpass their 2018 lobbying spending, for example, The Vapor Technology Association that represents mostly small companies spent $240,000 lobbying the federal government in 2018 and for the first three quarters of 2019 had already spent well over $336,000. Total lobbying by the tobacco and vape industry in 2018 was $23.5 billion and in the first three quarters of 2019 it was already more than $20 million. 

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agency recently wrote, “It is far from clear that e-cigarettes help smokers quit in meaningful numbers, although it is possible that e-cigarettes provide less unhealthy alternatives to combustible tobacco products.”

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