Despite Trump's apparent reversal on flavor bans, FDA considers new vape policy

On Wednesday, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a press release announcing new intended policies designed to regulate how and where flavored vapor products can be sold.  The initiative aims to limit the sales of fruity, sweet, and other kid-appealing vapes to age-restricted venues or establishments which have a separately designated adults-only section.

E-commerce sites will be safe for the time being, but their age verification requirements will be tightened, and the FDA will be doing a more thorough job in its enforcement efforts.  Agency officials say that companies found in violation of the new policies can be forced to pull their products from store shelves or online websites. 

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Exempt from the new guidelines will be mint, menthol, and tobacco vapes unless the FDA determines that the retailer is specifically targeting minors in their advertising and marketing practices.  According to the FDA’s new regulatory initiative entitled Modifications to Compliance Policy for Certain Deemed Tobacco Products, the only total ban will be placed on flavored combustible tobacco cigars released to the marketplace after 2007.

New FDA policy is only in draft guidance stages

The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise to advocacy groups on both sides of the vaping debate since President Trump seemed to be reversing his prior plans to implement a federal flavor ban only last month.   The Washington Post is reporting that it is unclear if the new FDA initiative has the expressed approval of Mr. Trump.

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According to the draft guidance published last week, the new policies are expected to be finalized by the end of the year.  No official changes to the marketing and sales of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices will occur until after the new year.  This means that Trump may decide to toss the entire initiative completely, or he may recommend additional modifications. 

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and American Lung Association are outraged

Liz Mair of Vapers United is said to be “pleased the FDA was requiring age-verification measures,” but she is concerned that the new guidelines provide “insufficient clarity” regarding the processes in which convenience stores and other non-age-restrictive establishments “sequester” their flavored vapes to designated adults-only areas. She worries that some venues may be so fearful of FDA reprisals that they “overcorrect,” thus making vapor products more difficult for the adults to purchase, as well.

The notoriously vaping-hating Matthew Myers – who was present during the White House meeting on vaping last month – criticized the new policy for failing to restrict the access of menthol, mint, and tobacco flavors.  “A public health crisis of this magnitude demands faster and more forceful action than the steps announced by the FDA,” Myers said.  

Erika Sward of the American Lung Association (ALA) accused the FDA of kicking “the can down the road rather than doing what it will ultimately take to end this epidemic — removing all flavored tobacco products from the market.”  Clearly, the ALA will not be satisfied until every vapor product is banished from the American marketplace permanently.  As for combustible tobacco cigarettes, the ALA apparently does not have as strong a desire to ban them outright. 

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(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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