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Altria Pulling MarkTen Products from Shelves

Altria Pulling MarkTen Products from Shelves

The federal government’s crackdown on e-cigarette flavors has produced its first victim.

Marlboro maker Altria announced yesterday it is halting the sales of its pod-based e-cigarettes—including MarkTen Elite and Apex by MarkTen—according to a report in the Washington Post.

The move comes in the wake of what the US FDA has called a youth vaping “epidemic.”

In a letter to the FDA dated October 25, 2018, Altria said it would completely halt the sale of MarkTen Elite and Apex by MarkTen products “until the youth issue is otherwise addressed.”

MarkTen and Green Smoke products will remain on the market, however, only in tobacco, mint and menthol flavors. Those non-sweet flavors are thought to be less of a draw for youth. Some of the flavors being pulled from the shelves by Altria include Strawberry Brulee, Hazelnut Cream, Apple Cider, Sweet Original and others.

Altria also pledged support for federal legislation that pushes the age to purchase tobacco up to 21.  

In September, the FDA gave the top e-cigarette manufacturers 60 days to come up with comprehensive plans to address youth vaping. Those plans are due in early November. Altria, which holds about 9 percent of the e-cig market share in the US, is the first company to pull some of its offerings in an effort to stem underage use.

It seems Altria is making a bet to give up short term sales to appease federal regulators in order to preserve its e-cigarette offerings in the long term. Altria said in its letter it made the decision not only to address the youth epidemic but also to preserve “the long-term harm reduction opportunity of e-vapor products.”

Altria also stated its belief that pod-based products “significantly contribute” to the rise in you use of e-vapor products and added that underage youth vaping is “further compounded by flavors in these products that go beyond traditional tobacco flavors.”

What Altria didn't mention is that its pod-based vapor products were released in early 2018, unlike its cartridge-based systems that have been available for several years. The FDA has reiterated in recent weeks that any devices brought to market after its deeming authority over e-cigarettes took effect in August 2016 are considered illegal and should not be offered for sale.

JUUL, the overwhelming market leader in cigalike sales, has not yet announced its plan to curb underage vaping. The company's pod-based device is the only one specifically named in the FDA's enforcement letter that was on the market when the moratorium on new products began, having launched in 2015.

The FDA has so far floated the idea of banning sweet flavors outright and prohibiting sales of e-cigarettes both online and in convenience stores, meaning only brick-and-mortar vaping stores would be permitted to sell them.