The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is banning most flavored e-cigarettes, but the ban has a big loophole that some are saying defeats the main purpose of the ban. While the ban only allows menthol and tobacco flavors for refillable cartridge-based e-cigarettes like Juul, the Trump administration carved out a few exceptions to the rules. However, the policy allows mint, dessert and fruit flavors to continue to be sold in disposable e-cigarettes.
An increase in teenage vaping led the Trump administration to announce a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in September. The rationale was data from the 2019 Youth Tobacco Survey, released by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which showed 25 percent of the nation’s high school students reporting vaping within the previous 30 days. That was a 4.3 percent increase from the prior year and a 13.3 percent increase from 2016. That the final policy allowed menthol e-cigarettes to stay on the market was expected, but the exemption for disposable e-cigarettes was not.
The new policy released by the FDA has a passage on page 9 that permits all flavors to continue to be sold in devices that cannot be refilled and are designed to be disposed of after the flavored nicotine runs out. Thirty senators have now written to the agency demanding to know the rationale for permitting disposables to stay on the market. The agency said it did not have data showing high rates of youth use of disposables like it does for the cartridge-based products. The agency also said that it is monitoring the issue and would revise the policy if necessary.
While vaping is generally considered to be safer than smoking cigarettes and cigars, a recent outbreak of a mysterious vaping-related lung disease brought that safety into question. The CDC ultimately found that the vast majority of patients who developed the vaping-related lung disease had vaped THC, the high-inducing chemical in marijuana. But by then, the vaping industry, especially Juul, had taken a big hit. Tobacco giant Altria, which partially owns Juul, recently announced that it was taking a $4.1 billion hit from its investment in the e-cigarette company.