Vape News In Brief: September 28th, 2018 Edition
Vape News In Brief: September 28th, 2018 Edition
VNIB is a semi-regular column in which Breazy takes a look around the globe, searching for news, science, and the occasional tasty pop culture tidbit related to vaping and the life of vapers. Today, let's talk about…
…last week's FDA bombshell, which is still the biggest news in the vape world. Unsurprisingly, Big Tobacco stocks surged on the news of a potential crackdown on Juul specifically, and flavored liquids in closed-system devices more broadly. Even though every major tobacco firm now owns a vapor products subsidiary (with the notable exception being the independently owned JUUL) the products those companies offer have generally been mediocre and therefore comprise a small percentage of overall revenue. In this sense, investors are betting that any move driving people away from vaping by limiting flavor choice could send them back to Big Tobacco's core business (tobacco), which would be a net win for shareholders.
It's rare that we find an article that appears to come from a truly unbiased source seeking to encapsulate everything we currently know about vaping, from the science to legal and regulatory battles to societal perception, and wraps it all up neatly in one piece. This, friends, is that article. If you're looking for a jumping-off point to learn about the current state of vaping, warts and all, we can't think of a better place to start than this piece in The Economist. (For background, the UK-based magazine, which was founded in 1843, believes in economic liberalism and is targeted to highly educated readers, many of them influential executives and policy makers.)
Speaking of Great Britain, London's Daily Mail is reporting that the number of vapers in the UK now exceeds three million. That's up from 700,000 in 2012, and public health bodies are cheering the news, saying "smokers are 'finally getting the message' that switching to vaping can improve health." While US government bodies remain committed to spreading the message that vaping poses a greater health risk than not vaping, the UK is doubling down on advertising campaigns stressing that vaping is less harmful than smoking, and that anyone who smokes should consider switching. Of course, thanks to tighter advertising restrictions and a ban on ultra-high nicotine products, vaping hasn't really taken off among the underage, non-smoking set, as it has here in the US. That allows the UK to focus more on tobacco harm reduction than youth nicotine use.
Newsiness: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that sales of flavored e-liquids have been on the rise since 2012. But not all flavors are created equal. Sweet e-liquids such as fruit and dessert are up considerably more than tobacco- and menthol-flavored offerings. We suspect this is because consumers are increasingly disillusioned by the fact that "tobacco" flavored vapes taste nothing like actual burning cigarettes and are seeking out other, more enticing offerings.
Occasionally, we come across some interesting stories that give us a glimpse into the lives of vapers around the world. This one, which dives into how India’s ‘vape crusaders’ are uniting as their government pushes for an outright ban on vaping nationwide, is worth a read.
This op-ed from Winston-Salem, North Carolina – deep in the heart of tobacco country – comes down hard on e-cigarette companies, calling on them to prove they're working to stamp out underage vaping. Which we completely agree with. However, we are going to take exception to the newspaper opining that adult vapers should "have more refined tastes" than the fruit- or cream-flavored vapes they clearly have a taste for. What exactly do the writers think a refined palate should enjoy? Coffee and licorice, apparently. Okay, we've come across some pretty great coffee vapes in our time, but the next person we meet who says licorice is the best candy flavor (with the exception of our Grandma Pearl) will be the first.
Moving in the wrong direction: Legislators in North Dakota are being lobbied to reclassify vapor products as "tobacco." This would bring the state's laws in line with the FDA's stance, and it would allow legislators to impose "sin taxes" on vapor devices and e-liquids. The problem is that North Dakota already has an e-cigarette law that prohibits sale to minors, which could probably be amended to enact a tax or place further restrictions on use, rather than reclassify them altogether. We've made this argument before; vapor products are for adults only and need to be regulated because they generally contain nicotine. But they're not the same thing as cigarettes, and therefore any legislation that treats them as equals, is an obstacle to addressing each product on its own faults and merits.
A leading tobacco industry analyst believes that JUUL's massive dominance in the convenience store sector of the vapor market may be leveling off. Wells Fargo Securities Analyst Bonnie Herzog says that while e-cig sales are on track to hit $6.6 billion this year, negative media attention focused on JUUL, combined with heavy discounts and coupon-ing from its competitors, may begin to level the playing field in coming months. More interesting, and buried at the end of this story, is news that tobacco giant RJ Reynolds will bring a new pod-style device similar to JUUL to market under its Vuse line of vapor products. Vuse has previously focused on first-generation cigalikes, widely considered outdated even by beginner standards.
A Big Tobacco-backed product that actually competes with JUUL on technology and performance? It would be the first. And that could be a game changer.
While the FDA is threatening to crack down on cigalike manufacturers if they don't come up with a convincing plan to prevent underage vaping, the agency also appears to be somewhat willing to help them do so. Last week, FDA head Scott Gottlieb said the agency is open to the idea of fast-tracking the approval process for new product innovations that would help curb underage youth, like a Bluetooth-enabled device that could be locked when it's near a school campus. As luck would have it, Juul introduced just such a device a few days before the FDA issued its threat.
Not entirely implausible: This letter to the editor, entitled “Prohibition Failed Before and Will Fail Again with E-cigarettes” published by the Washington Post, makes the case that sweeping anti-vapor legislation like a proposed nationwide ban on flavored liquid would drive a big segment of the vaping industry underground. We're not sure if the comparisons entirely line up, but there are some parallels to be drawn to the country's failed attempt a century ago at alcohol prohibition and its ‘current’ War on Drugs, now in its 47th year…
We'll leave you with that for now, but with the FDA crackdown looming it seems vape news is flying at us faster than ever these days. Stay tuned, we've got an eventful couple months ahead of us…