The Food and Drug Administration may soon enforce huge restrictions on where some flavored vaping products can be sold—and soon. The move is brought on by the agency’s effort to crack down on the sale of vaping products to underage consumers.
Citing senior agency officials familiar with the matter, the Washington Post reported Thursday that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb could announce a ban on the sale of some flavored e-cigs products—specifically flavored cartridges—in “tens of thousands of convenience stores and gas stations across the country” as soon as next week:
Gottlieb’s actions are focused on a specific kind of vaping product that dominates the market — e-cigarettes that use prepackaged flavor cartridges, or pods. That includes the wildly popular vaping products by Juul Labs. The restrictions don’t apply to the “open-tank” systems available in vape shops.
The Post also reported that the agency may be looking to enforce “age-verification requirements for online sales.”
Of these specific flavored e-cigarettes products, however, one will reportedly remain shielded from the ban. The Post reported that the agency will allow menthol flavors to stay in part because they are also permitted in traditional cigarettes, but also because “the agency doesn’t want to give traditional cigarettes an advantage over e-cigarettes in the retail setting.”
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told Gizmodo by email that while he agrees that no minors should vape, the rumored restrictions “will only serve to make it harder for adult smokers to switch to a far less harmful alternative.”
“Not every town has a vape shop, meaning that for many smokers, it will be much easier to pick up a pack of Marlboros or Camels—or even an unrestricted cherry-flavored cigar—at a local convenience store than it will be to make the switch to a vaping product that truly helps him or her break their desire for cigarettes,” he said.
The news of the forthcoming regulation follows a report in September that the FDA had taken steps to crack down on the sale of e-cigs to minors with a nationwide “undercover blitz” of both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. In what the FDA characterized as “the largest coordinated enforcement effort” in its history, the agency said it sent more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers who sold vaping products to minors.
“We’re committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced last year,” Gottlieb said in a statement at the time. “But at the same time, we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger. This starts with the actions we’re taking today to crack down on retail sales of e-cigarettes to minors.”
Update 11/9/18, 5:30 p.m. ET: The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Juul Labs plans to pull most of its flavored vaping products from brick-and-mortar stores, citing sources familiar with the decision. Falling in line with the report about the forthcoming FDA ban on some flavored vaping products, the company reportedly “plans to keep menthol- and tobacco-flavored products in stores, and all of its flavored products, including cucumber and mango, will continue to be available for sale on its website.”