In less than one month, all flavored e-cigarettes will be subject to the vape ban—for now.
This week, the Trump administration announced a vape ban focused on all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol and mint. All such flavored vapes will be barred from the market within 30 days.
The ban comes as federal public health experts search for a cause behind the mysterious vaping illness that has caused six deaths and hundreds of illnesses.
Vape ban goes nationwide
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) called for people across the nation to stop vaping entirely until they understand the illness. US Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Alex Azar told media in a press conference and statement that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now developing its guidance related to the ban.
Companies may be allowed to reintroduce e-cigarettes with flavors in the future. However, to do so they will need to receive FDA approval after submitting a formal application.
This move represents an uptick in regulatory oversight. It would also raise the level of industry regulation to one more similar to that of the UK or Canada.
Lawmakers have recently targeted vape companies like Juul for marketing flavored e-cigarettes they say are “designed” to appeal to youth—flavors such as crème and mango. This has in turn prompted Juul to release a bluetooth vape intended to cut down on youth use.
Meanwhile, after six deaths, the administration is calling the illness an “epidemic.”
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Azar said in the statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
It may be several weeks before the FDA is finished with the guidelines.
Flavored vape ban versus sensible regulation
Azar indicated that the FDA wants to keep tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes available to adults who want to quit smoking. The FDA was already moving to ban menthol cigarettes, and now that effort is folded into the larger ban.
The agency has signaled that if children begin using tobacco-flavored vapes, they may ban those, too.
Now that the FDA has begun reviewing the impact of e-cigarettes, all companies must submit their applications through the FDA to receive consideration. However, it seems obvious that it probably should have done that before the products went on the market.
American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley lambasted the vape ban in a statement:
“A ban will remove life-changing options from the market that have been used by several million American adults to quit smoking,” Conley said. “In the history of the United States, prohibition has never worked. It didn’t work with alcohol. It hasn’t worked with marijuana. It won’t work with e-cigarettes. The President should meet with just one of the millions of American voters who have used flavors to quit smoking before moving forward on this draconian approach to regulation and public policy.”
Vaping industry fallout
Meanwhile, CNBC reported that Juul agrees with the vape ban—for now: “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products. We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”
Stock in Altria, parent company of Juul, dropped this week by less than 1 percent. However, the impact on the cannabis industry remains uncertain.
“There’s a lot of preliminary concern that this could be used to negatively impact cannabis-related regulations at the federal level when that process begins. We look forward to working with the FDA to develop sensible regulations for (vaporizer products) once Congress has ended prohibition.”
Cannabis stores at the state level have not yet reported any major drop in sales of vaporizer cartridges. As officials investigate, black market cannabis products appear to be the problem—not cannabis itself.
“Destroying thousands of small businesses and sending ex-smokers back to smoking will do nothing to stop drug dealers from selling contaminated THC cartridges,” Conley commented. “A flavor ban will only lead to the creation of yet another multibillion-dollar black market that will operate with zero safety controls.”
Unlike a vape ban, an actual focus on black market products yields results. In Wisconsin, officials just arrested two brothers in connection with a black market cannabis vape operation. They were operating, with employees, for two year. The enterprise was filling and selling 3,000 to 5,000 cartridges every day for $16 each.