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FDA threatens to step up regulation on vaping
If you haven’t heard, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb posted astatementthis Wednesday detailing the state of the Food and Drug Administration’s relationship with the vaping world. While no industry-wide action is being taken, Gottlieb’s message was clear: the FDA will do anything and everything necessary to keep e-cigs away from minors. Gottlieb has historically been willing to work with the vaping industry to find reasonable compromises, but mounting pressure from organizations like Tobacco Free Kids have clearly had an impact:
“It’s now clear to me, that in closing the on-ramp to kids, we’re going to have to narrow the off-ramp for adults who want to migrate off combustible tobacco and onto e-cigs.”
In other words, the FDA is willing to sacrifice anything if it’s “for the kids”. If this doesn’t scare vapers, it should – especially with what they’re threatening:
“[…] we’re actively considering whether we will enforce the premarket review provision earlier, when it is apparent that these products are now subject to widespread youth use.”
PMTAs are currently due in 2022, with at least 99% of products expected to disappear. Pushing up the date not only ends these products earlier, but will disrupt even big companies who have the resources to apply (read more about the PMTA burdenhere).
And if that isn’t bad enough:
“We’re especially focused on the flavored e-cigarettes. And we’re seriously considering a policy change that would lead to the immediate removal of these flavored products from the market.”
Yeah, that’s right: The FDA is threatening vapers with a flavor ban - animmediate flavor ban. Most likely it would only leave unflavored, tobacco and menthol on the market, with a few oddballs like whiskey making the cut. See? I said you should be scared. But don’t panic just yet; the open system market (tanks and mods and juice) has a glimmer of hope:
“The biggest youth use seems to be among cartridge-based e-cigarettes, and not the open-tank vaping products. So, we’re exploring policy options that could let us adjust the policy steps we take to account for different product use patterns between kids and adults. Our focus is on the products that are being misused by minors.”
The rest of the statement focuses on more specific, enforcement-based solutions to underage use. JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic are the companies the FDA is targeting right now. The FDA sent them letters requiring 60 days to make progress in curbing youth sales, or face removal of their flavored products from the market. This statement isn’t a regulatory change, it’s a threat – no, a warning – of the position the FDA is in: If youth usage doesn’t stop, they have no other choice than to gut vaping. They specifically threatened the big 5 (listed above), and if that doesn’t work, they may use increasingly broad regulation designed to wipe us out.
So what can we do? As a consumer there isn’t much. It’s time for the industry to show its mettle.
Gottlieb made it clear that the only way to prevent drastic action is to show progress in eliminating youth sales. For brand owners, this means stepping up standards on sales and marketing. Stores, both online and brick-and-mortar, will have to work harder to catch and prevent straw purchases (someone of legal age buying for someone underage). Marketing material will have to be duller; whether it’s appealing to youth or not, let’s not provide more nails for our coffin.
Vapejoose has already begun a system to find potential straw purchases, and we’ll be investigating each one carefully. We also recently updated our marketing policy with a big focus on responsibility (see more about Vapejoose marketing practiceshere). If you’ve seen our new labels, you already know we’re running as far from cartoony and loud as possible. We hear the FDA loud and clear, and understand that cooperation is the only way this can end well.
Right now is a scary time for US vapers; so much to lose with the outcome largely decided by the actions of a few big companies. To the big 5, please do us all a favor: give the man what he wants so we can vape in peace.
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