Is there a date to ban flavored e-liquid?
Is There a Date to Ban Flavored E-Liquids?
The availability of flavored e-liquids has been a point of considerably controversy in recent months. Anti-vaping activists have long argued that flavored vape juice has been used to entice children who otherwise wouldn’t smoke into vaping, and as concerns sprouted around a “mysterious” lung illness that ended up being linked to illicit THC vapes their cries only grew louder.
The facts on the ground seem to tell a different story. Nearly 98 percent of adult vapers say they prefer non-tobacco flavors including mint and menthol, and the most recent government research concludes that only 22 percent of teens who experiment with vaping say they did so primarily or largely because of the variety of flavors available. After the leading manufacturer of cigalikes sold outside vape shops and preferred by 60% of underage users dropped its fruity and dessert flavors, meanwhile, teens who continued vaping switched their allegiance from fruity flavors to mints and menthol, which remained available.
While it doesn’t appear to be true that flavors are necessarily a main reason youth choose to experiment with vaping, it does seem to be the case that they prefer flavors other than tobacco by a margin just as wide as adults. Based on this, demands to ban flavored vapes have continued. Let’s take a look at what these bans could mean for you.
National Scene: No Action Yet
President Donald Trump caused a stir earlier this year, announcing via Twitter that his administration was preparing to roll out a blanket ban on flavored vapor products. Although this occurred at the height of the lung illness panic and well before that issue was tied to counterfeit marijuana vapes, the snap judgment still sent shockwaves through the industry. Trump quickly backed off his remarks, but avid vapers and vape-adjacent small business owners were riled up enough to stage a rally attended by thousands outside the White House advocating for the rights of adult vapers.
Facing backlash from a traditionally conservative set of voters in swing states who argued a nationwide ban would drive vapers back to smoking and cost the economy tens of thousands of jobs Trump did not sign an executive order banning flavors, though it was reportedly written and vetted, missing only his signature.
Failure to follow through on the threatened ban may only be a temporary reprieve. At the moment, manufacturers of vapor products, including both hardware and e-liquids, have until May of next year to file pre-market applications with the federal Food and Drug Administration or face their products being forcibly removed from shelves. This date has changed several times in recent years: vape manufacturers originally faced a 2017 deadline, which was pushed out to 2022 to give the agency a chance to streamline the application process so more manufacturers could comply. A district court judge this fall ordered that timeline be accelerated to May 2020.
The application process itself is a problem – many e-liquid manufacturers are small businesses without huge compliance budgets. It’s estimated that the cost of each pre-market application, which must be filed for each flavor and strength of e-liquid offered, could run from hundreds of thousands to even a million dollars. While affordable for brands backed by major tobacco companies like blu and Juul, the application fees themselves could bankrupt many suppliers of open-system e-liquids.
A Mixed Bag Locally
While flavored e-juice seems like it’s safe from a federal ban for the next several months, that hasn’t stopped states and other localities from enacting bans of their own.
Massachusetts has probably the harshest ban, affecting not just flavored liquids but ALL vapor products – it’s currently being challenged in court. A court challenge likewise stalled off a temporary ban in New York, and that ban will likely expire before it’s ever enforced. Michigan also enacted a temporary six-month ban on flavors, though it was stalled less than two weeks after taking effect. Rhode Island, Montana, Oregon and California are also mulling bans of their own.
On a city-wide level, San Francisco was the first major municipality to ban vaping, doing so back in 2018. Voters reaffirmed the ban this year, after Juul abandoned support for overturning the measure in its home town. New York City implemented its own ban in early December, and other big cities have contemplated following suit.
While things have slowed a bit following the marijuana vape oil scare, the flavor ban is still very fluid. To get the latest news where you live, try searching “[state] vape ban” or “[city] vape ban.”
Access to flavor is a serious issue that affects the ability of vapers nationwide to continue their journey away from combustible tobacco products. While no one can argue that nicotine products shouldn’t be kept out of the hands of kids, it should be recognized that adults also enjoy a variety of flavors, and many credit the availability of non-tobacco options with helping disassociate vaping with smoking, easing the transition away from cigarettes. Expect a lot more on this important topic as the story continues to develop.