Vape Pods Banned? What Do I Do?
Vape Pods Banned? What Do I Do?
If you haven't heard by now, earlier this month the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced a nationwide ban on virtually all pre-filled vape pods. The ban takes effect February 1, and will likely affect millions of users of closed-system vapor devices.
If that includes you, it's important to understand the changes coming to the market and plan now to be prepared for what comes next.
What's Included? What's Not?
The federal ban includes all flavored, pre-filled disposable vape pods currently on the market. Big Tobacco-backed companies like Juul have already begun to move away from flavors after their products were implicated in an unprecedented spike in underage use of vapor devices, but this ban also affects a host of smaller, vape-only companies and foreign manufacturers of compatible pods.
There are a couple of exceptions to the blanket ban: tobacco and menthol flavors will remain available for the time being. These have long been the only permissible variants of combustible tobacco cigarettes, and since the US government deems vapor devices equivalent to cigarettes these flavors will be exempt from the existing regulation.
Another way around the ban is to complete a premarket tobacco application process (PMTA) with the government's Food and Drug Administration. The process is both cumbersome and expensive, with cost estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to obtain approval to sell a single flavor, making the process cost-prohibitive for most small businesses that dominate the e-liquid market. Unsurprisingly, the only PMTAs submitted so far have been by Big Tobacco companies including Reynolds American, manufacturers of Camel cigarettes and the Vuse pod mod.
A temporary reprieve was also granted to open-system liquid manufacturers. Traditional vapor devices use a tank that can be refilled by the vaper with a liquid of their choosing, and many pod mods similarly are available with empty, user-filled pods. Flavors will still be available for these liquids, though a deadline looms in May for their manufacturers to begin the PMTA process as well.
What To Do?
If you're content with using tobacco- or menthol-flavored pods produced by a tobacco company, chances are you're fine for now. These products will remain widely available and unaffected by the new ban.
But if you're committed to using your favorite flavors in a closed-system pod device, you might want to stock up now. Properly stored e-liquid can last for up to two years in a bottle, and while pod mods haven't been popular long enough to test this theory when an entire atomizer system is involved, it's likely you'll be able to stash some pods to tide you over for a while. You'd best get started soon, though, because the run on remaining inventory is already underway and retailers aren't restocking product they know they soon won't be able to sell.
Another option is to consider switching to an open-system vapor device. We've got a rundown on the different devices available here, and while you might want to step up to a fully customizable advanced mod, there are still plenty of pod devices available that can be refilled.
Open-system devices offer a host of benefits to their users. E-liquid refills tend to be much cheaper in the long run than disposable pods, and the pods themselves can be refilled several times before they need to be changed out. You'll have a much wider variety of flavor options than with your closed system, and you'll be able to custom-tailor your nicotine level or gradually step down if you're trying to reduce or eliminate your nicotine use. Refillable devices are also much friendlier to the environment, as they create exponentially less waste.
There are some drawbacks: you'll have to learn to fill your tank or pod, and you'll have to occasionally clean your device and change a coil if you're using an advanced system (we hope regular cleaning is already part of the routine for something you're putting in your mouth). Overall, however, switching to an open-system vapor device is a solution that will work for many vapers.
The flavored pod ban does have some temporary, short-term workarounds. And if you're content with menthol and tobacco flavors (be forewarned, menthol is the next flavor anti-vapor activists are poised to attack) distributed by tobacco companies, you'll be okay for now.
Still, whether you choose to hoard whatever flavor pods you can still find in the coming weeks or switch to an open-system device, the May 2020 PMTA deadline is likely to strike a devastating blow against the entire US vaping landscape. Hundreds of thousands of vapers have already joined consumer advocacy groups like CASAA and submitted comments to their local and federal lawmakers to inform them of the need to keep vapor products legal and accessible to adult ex-smokers. If you haven't joined yet, know that there's never been a more important time to get involved.