FDA Threatens to Ban Flavored e-Cigs

The industry has 60 days to come up with a plan to tackle teen vaping.

Tobacco companies are no strangers to regulation… not now anyway, following a few decades of cigarette backlash that’s resulted in their peddling of products that are now highly taxed, hard to advertise and require large warnings on their packaging.

For many of these companies, fortune gave them a chance to pivot when e-cigarettes began to gain some steam with consumers. Now the smoking business could become the anti-smoking business, by producing e-cigs, or vaping products, and marketing them as a safer alternative to smoking or even a pathway to quitting altogether.

It was with this notion in mind that the FDA made the move last year to ease restrictions on vaping, giving them a four-year stay after a 2016 rule would require them to retroactively submit existing products to the FDA for approval, something that would have surely crippled many producers of these types of products.

But in a stern rebuke of the industry last week, FDA director Scott Gottlieb said he was disappointed in the ineffective efforts being made to stop teenagers from using vaping products, and he was putting them on notice: address the issue within the next 60 days, or the FDA would pull their ability to sell flavored vaping products.

Gottlieb says the agency is preparing to release data that shows a substantial increase in teen vaping over the prior year, and they place significant blame on products like Juul, a pocket-sized e-cig device that can come with many optional flavors and has become increasingly popular with teens. The FDA commissioner seems to think that the epidemic among teens is perhaps outweighing the benefits of these vaping products as smoking cessation devices – a theory that’s actually up for debate anyway after a Georgia State University study this summer claimed there was no evidence that e-cigarettes were helping smokers quit. In fact, the researchers said that use of the devices might actually delay quitting among adult smokers.

Alternatively, some fear that despite the plummet in smoking rates of the last thirty years, that any type of ban on flavored e-cigarettes would send some users back to the more traditional tobacco products.