President Trump announced today that his administration has initiated actions to ban the sale of e-juice flavors other than tobacco.
We have a problem in our country. It's a new problem. It's a problem nobody really thought about too much a few years ago and it's called vaping, especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children.
We are looking at vaping very strongly ... It's very dangerous. Children have died, people have died. ... We're going to have some very strong rules, regulations, and more important I think we're going to have some very important information come out very shortly. And we'll be reporting that over the next couple of weeks.
They've become very rich companies very fast. The whole with vaping has been very profitable. ... But we can't allow people to get sick, and we can't have our youth be so affected.
A lot of people thing vaping is wonderful ... it's great.
It's really not wonderful. It's got big problems.
President Trump, like an enormous amount of the public, seems to have fallen victim to the massive amount of misinformation being spread about the current spate of what is believed to be lipid pneumonia cases across the country. The outbreak has been linked in the media to e-cigarettes in general.
The contaminated THC cartridge crisis seems to have given all the cover anti-vaping advocates and politicians needed to finally implement their years long campaign to ban flavored vape juice.
Health officials in New York have linked the illnesses to vitamin E acetate additives used to dilute THC extract cartridges. This report from New York state was acknowledged by Secretary Azar in an interview with Fox News. This interview took place on September 6th 2019, well before the announced flavor ban and foreshadows today's announcement..
THC cartridges are similar technology to e-cigarettes and both products are vaped, allowing the two products to be frequently conflated by the media -- confusing the general public into believing THC cartridges and nicotine e-cigarettes are the same products with the same risk profile.
THC cartridges do not contain nicotine based and typically don't even use the same based ingredients as vape juice, namely propelyne glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG) as these bases make the THC extract end up thinner and lighter in color than when in a more pure form.
Vitamin E acetate, known to be toxic when inhaled as vapor, is being used as a diluent (thickening or cutting agent) by questionable, perhaps mainly, black market manufacturers because it is of a similar color and viscosity as pure THC extract. The color and thickness of the liquid are physical features which are sought after by unsuspecting buyers to verify the purity of the cartridge visually.
In essence, this announced flavor ban will not stop the current outbreak of lung illness and also fails to warn the public to not buy or use THC cartridges that may be manufactured with the tainted base ingredients.
CNBC published an article by Reuters reporter Jeff Mason on the announcement with context we will focus on in segments:
The Food and Drug Administration is currently finalizing its guidance to remove all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, from the market within 30 days. Companies might be able to reintroduce their flavors at a later date, so long as they submit a formal application and receive approval from the FDA.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
It could take the FDA several weeks to develop the guidelines, Azar told reporters outside the White House with acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless.
Shares of Altria, which owns a 35% stake in e-cigarette company Juul, fell by less than 1%, while competitors PMI Group, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands all rose by between 1% and 3% in midday trading.
A Juul spokesman told CNBC on Wednesday, “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products. We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”
Azar said they want to keep tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes on the market for adults who may be using them to quit smoking. The FDA has embraced e-cigarettes as a less harmful way for smokers to satisfy their nicotine addiction than smoking cigarettes. Skyrocketing numbers of minors started using the products, forcing the FDA to reverse course.
“If we find that children start surging into tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes or if we find marketing practices that target children and try to attract them into tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, we will engage in enforcement actions there also,” he told reporters.
Perhaps e-cigarettes will stop getting bad press once the only players in the vape market are Big Tobacco outfits including JUUL, the maker of the popular juul pods, which has been the primary focus of the media and politicians.
The quote from JUUL Labs, the largest e-cigarette company in the world, seems to imply the company welcomes the elimination of its competition.
JUUL Labs sold a 35% stake in the company to Altria Group, a tobacco giant which is currently in talks to merge with its subsidiary Phillip Morris. Phillip Morris is the maker of IQOS (heat not burn) one of the few products to market approval from the FDA earlier this year.
The effort to ban flavored e-cigarettes has started picking up momentum. Michigan, San Francisco, and Boulder, Colorado, have banned flavored e-cigarettes. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York mayor, pledged $160 million to help enact similar restrictions around the country.
Gottlieb labeled teen vaping an “epidemic” almost exactly a year ago. Under Gottlieb, the FDA moved to limit sales of fruity flavors to age-restricted stores, such as vape shops. Lawmakers and public health groups have urged the agency to do more, with Minority Whip Dick Durbin last week telling Sharpless to take “decisive action” or else resign.
“Finally, the FDA is doing its job,” Durbin said in a statement Wednesday.
American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley criticized the planned ban, saying in a statement it would “remove life-changing options from the market.”
Wednesday’s announcement comes as members of Congress increasingly pressure the administration to rein in the e-cigarette industry.
What is odd about recent developments is this flavor ban came fairly quickly after Former Commissioner Gottlieb was replaced by acting Commissioner Sharpless.
After Gottlieb's departure it seems closed vape pod systems, like those produced by Big Tobacco companies, will be market dominant and refillable vape systems will fall by the wayside after flavored vape juice is banned by the FDA.
Finally, buried at the very end of the article, as always, is the truth of the matter.
The CDC is investigating more than 450 cases of lung disease officials suspect were caused by vaping.
Some officials have honed in on a vitamin E oil that’s been added to some THC vaping products as a possible cause. Regardless, the outbreak has fueled calls to restrict the e-cigarette industry amid what regulators are calling an “epidemic” of teen vaping.
Trump called on the FDA to get to the bottom of the outbreak.
President Trump's flavor ban follows closely after the Governor of Michigan (D) took a incredibly similar executive action to ban flavored e-liquid from being sold in the state -- a move which was hailed by the press as "bold" and "decisive".