A WEEK after the Trump administration announced the ban of tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a policy that bans the sale of most flavors of cartridge e-cigarettes.
The compromise announced on Thursday, January 2 was designed to quell the concerns of public health officials and parents worried about the rising levels of vaping among youth while appeasing leaders of the tobacco industry, which includes manufacturers of e-cigarettes.
FDA officials said that e-cigarette cartridges offered in mint, fruit or dessert flavors would be banned within the next month, but the ban does not apply to menthol and tobacco flavors, as well as flavored liquid nicotine for open tank systems sold in vape shops.
“The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar said. “HHS is taking a comprehensive, aggressive approach to enforcing the law passed by Congress, under which no e-cigarettes are currently on the market legally.”
Manufacturers who want to market vaping products — e-cigarettes or the e-liquids — now have until May 12 to prove to the FDA that their products do not pose a public health risk. In other words, the targeted products of the ban may ultimately be approved by the FDA and return to the market.
In the lead up to Thursday’s announcement, companies complained that a full-blown ban on e-cigarettes could push vape shop owners out of business. The partial ban was also designed to address an ongoing national epidemic while also considering adults who may want to try vaping in order to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
Azar pointed out national surveys that found that teenagers were more keen on the now-banned mint and fruit flavors and “overwhelmingly prefer cartridge-based e-cigarette products” such as the popular JUUL e-cigarette.
“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 nicotine addiction for our youth,” Azar explained.
The ban has been a move months in the making for the Trump administration. In September, Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and two White House public health experts made an announcement that the administration would address growing concerns over vaping-related illnesses among American youth.
In a speech delivered in the Oval Office, Trump promised to deliver “very, very strong” measures against teenage vaping and suggested that his administration would institute a full ban on vape products.
The national discourse over what to do with e-cigarette products and which flavors should be prohibited was catalyzed by a sudden outbreak in 2019 of lung injuries stemmed from vaping THC, the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
But following Thursday’s announcement, medical and public health organizations said that the partial ban was a good move forward, but wasn’t enough to adequately address the issue.
“If we are serious about tackling this epidemic and keeping these harmful products out of the hands of young people, a total ban on all flavored e-cigarettes — in all forms and at all locations — is prudent and urgently needed,” the American Medical Association said in a statement, adding that it was “disappointed that menthol flavors — one of the most popular — will still be allowed.”