Lately, the vaping industry has really been struggling to get a few wins in the press. For years now, we’ve been facing an underage vaping epidemic that’s made the entire industry look like a bunch of sleazeballs even though it’s quite obvious that the kids are all using just one product from one company.
This year, though, things have taken a few major turns for the worse – and it looks like those controversies are going to result in a ban on all flavored e-liquids. How will the ban affect you, how much time do you have and how in the world did things come to this? Those are the things we’ll discuss in this article.
Major Vaping Controversies of 2019
For every company in the vaping industry not named JUUL, 2019 has been a terrible year. We’ve spent this year dealing with one serious controversy after another.
- A federal court has ordered the FDA to step up its timetable for e-cigarette regulations. While vaping manufacturers previously had until August 2022 to submit premarket applications for their products and gain FDA approval, the FDA has now moved the PMTA deadline to May 2020. Unless something changes, the vaping industry as we know it is toast in about seven months.
- Preliminary results from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey have been released, and the number of underage vapers has skyrocketed yet again. A reported 5 percent of high school students now vape. That’s more than 5 million kids now using nicotine regularly, and since they’re all using the most addictive e-cigarette on the market, many of them will be hooked for life. It’s likely that the majority of those kids have never used – and would never have used – tobacco.
- A mysterious lung illness has swept across the country, with at least 530 sickened and eight people killed by the disease. The cause of the vaping lung illness appears to be Vitamin E acetate, which is used as a cutting agent for marijuana oil in illicit THC vaping cartridges. No nicotine e-liquid has been implicated as a cause of the illness, but that hasn’t stopped the mainstream media from reporting about the illness as if THC vaping and e-liquid vaping was the same thing.
President Trump Announces E-Juice Flavor Ban
On September 11, President Trump shocked U.S. vapers by announcing his intention to ban all flavored e-liquids with the exception of tobacco flavors. The announcement came on the heels of the preliminary data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey indicating that more than a quarter of U.S. high school students now vape.
President Trump also mentioned during his press conference that people are getting sick and dying from vaping, suggesting that the vaping lung illness played a role in his decision despite the fact that the illness appears to have nothing to do with any commercial e-liquid product.
The proposed flavor ban will cover all e-liquid flavors except tobacco. Although the ban is mainly intended to cover sweet e-liquids mimicking the flavors of kid-friendly foods such as cereals, sodas and candies, mint and menthol e-liquids will also be banned because research shows that underage vapers like those flavors as well.
How Can the FDA Ban All E-Juice Flavors?
As far as the vaping industry is concerned, the FDA has ultimate power because the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gives the agency that power. The Act established a “grandfather date” of February 15, 2007 for all tobacco products.
Any tobacco product on the market as of that date could remain on the market as long as it complied with the Act’s other requirements and restrictions. To release a new tobacco product after that date, the manufacturer would need to file a PMTA and have that application approved by the FDA.
When the FDA announced its vaping regulations on August 8, 2016, the agency stated that it deemed all vaping products to be tobacco products and intended to regulate them as such.
No vaping product sold in the United States was on the market on February 15, 2007. Therefore, every vaping product is a “new tobacco product” being sold without an approved PMTA. When the FDA deemed all vaping products to be tobacco products, the agency gave itself the authority to pull all products from the market pending PMTA approval. Instead, they allowed the products to remain on the market temporarily.
The FDA repeatedly warned, however, that they could remove any product at any time if the industry couldn’t get itself under control and figure out how to stop underage vaping. That didn’t happen.
When Will the E-Liquid Flavor Ban Begin?
The e-liquid flavor ban is likely to begin before the end of 2019. During President Trump’s press conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that it would take the FDA “several weeks” to solidify the rule change in writing.
In addition, any new FDA regulation has a 30-day grace period before it takes effect. The grace period gives consumers a chance to adjust and allows manufacturers and retailers to clear out their stocks of unapproved products.
After the flavor ban begins, it’s likely that many of your favorite e-liquids will no longer be available to buy.
You would be wise to begin stocking up on those e-liquids now.
The Trump administration has been known to reverse course on certain issues, and many vapers are single-issue voters who will refuse to re-elect President Trump for a second term in 2020 if the flavor ban proceeds as planned.
For now, though, you should make your purchasing decisions with the assumption that the flavor ban will proceed as described in Trump’s press conference.
Will I Have Any Way to Get Flavored E-Liquid After the Ban?
After the e-liquid flavor ban begins, you’ll still have five possible ways to buy flavored e-liquid. Some of them, however, are of questionable legality.
- Around the time that the ban begins, your local vape shops may sell any remaining stocks of flavored e-liquids at extremely low prices. Ask around and be prepared to buy in bulk.
- It is possible that the FDA will exempt mint and menthol e-liquids from the ban since menthol cigarettes are still on the market. At this time, the government is planning to ban mint and menthol along with other flavors, but you can expect the industry to lobby strongly against that.
- You can attempt to buy flavored e-liquid from overseas sellers. In doing that, though, you’ll take the risk that your shipments will be seized by customs agents upon entering the country. In addition, many overseas vape shops will stop shipping to the United States when the ban commences.
- You can buy unflavored e-liquid and add flavors to it yourself.
- The flavor ban isn’t necessarily permanent for all products. If an e-liquid manufacturer submits a PMTA for a product – and that application is approved – the product will be legal to sell again.