E-Cig Buying Age
The U.S. House and Senate have passed a provision that bans e-cigarette and tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21. The federal tobacco 21 legislation is included in a $1.4 trillion dollar spending package that must be passed to avoid a government shutdown. President Trump is expected to sign the spending bill into law before Christmas.
President Trump has backed off the federal flavor ban he flirted with this fall. The careless reporting of vaping lung disease and the failure of the CDC to release the results of the 2019 Youth Tobacco Survey surely playing a role. The federal tobacco 21 legislation will be viewed as insufficient by anti-vapers, for whom the total ban of flavors and dissolution of the entire independent vaping industry is the end game.
Laws that set the minimum age of legal access for tobacco and e-cigarettes are already in place in 19 states and 500 cities. There are also a number of flavor bans at the state and local level, although their legality is being challenged in court. Strict e-cig laws punish marginalized groups but at least federal age restrictions do not punish the vast majority adult smokers by cutting off access to cigarette alternatives.
A federal age restriction on tobacco and e-cigarettes has been in the works since this spring. Senator McConnell (R-KY) had previously discussed an exemption for active duty members of the U.S. military but this provision has since been abandoned. Tobacco, nicotine, vaping and the U.S. military have a complex relationship. The Military Times noted that McConnell dropped the idea when public health experts recommend that "the military not be treated differently on a public health issue."
Age restrictions are not a new approach to public health. The American Journal of Public Health found that the first tobacco age restrictions began to appear in the 1880s. By 1920, 14 states had set the minimum age of purchase at 21 years of age. An additional eight states restricted sales to minors, defined at varying ages between 14 and 24. The tobacco lobby successfully eroded these age restrictions after 1920.
Vapor4Life has no interest in selling our products to minors or adults who do not smoke or vape. We use industry leading age verification software and card everyone who steps foot in our Illinois vape shop. Our goal is to provide satisfying products to smokers looking to make the switch to vaping. We provide lower nicotine options so vapers can reduce their intake and pursue a nicotine and vape free lifestyle.
Adult vapers must hope that the new federal minimum age law will be given a chance to succeed. The teen vaping epidemic poses an existential threat to the independent vaping industry and the flavors that adults prefer are under siege.
A survey of 69,000 adult vapers by Dr. Farsalino found adult vapers prefer flavored ejuices and tobacco flavors make up a much smaller percentage of the market.
Denying adults access to flavors could drive them back to smoking or into the arms of Phillip Morris, whose FDA approved iQOS heat-not-burn device would benefit greatly if the most popular vaping flavors are banned. There is a reason why Marlboro-maker Altria supports a flavor ban just an intently as Tobacco-free Kids or the Truth Initiative.
The 2019 CDC Youth Tobacco Survey found that curiosity and not flavors were the top reason that minors vaped by a wide margin. Further proof that alarmist propaganda that strains credulity may play a significant role in high risk teen behaviors.
The Twitter feeds of groups like the Truth Initiative have morphed into the Reefer Madness of the 21st Century. They are hell bent on denying adults access to the cigarette alternatives they prefer, with no consideration of the consequences. They remain completely blind to the fact that the specific flavor names they have chosen to obsess over are not particularly popular with minors and make up a small fraction of the overall vaping market.
The number two reason for vaping was friends or family using ecigs. Social channels have long been the primary conduit of e-cigarettes to minors. Shifting the age of tobacco purchase to 21 eliminates the issue of high school students who are old enough to freely purchase nicotine products. This makes a federal tobacco 21 purchase law surprisingly scientific for an e-cig regulation.
Flavors were number three on the list but the CDC loaded that question by including mint. The survey’s text of the survey stated: “(E-Cigs) Are Available in Flavors Such as Mint, Candy, Fruit or Chocolate.” This is a sleight of hand.
We have a situation where anti-vapers attack characterizing flavors like candy and fruit as being “kid friendly” but include mint, a term used interchangeably with menthol in the vaping industry, in their surveys to bolster the results.
Kid Friendly Flavors
When it comes to sales to minors, mint, candy, fruit and chocolate do not carry the same weight. Chocolate vapes make up a negligible share of the vaping market. Even before the removal of Juul compatible pods from the market, you would be hard pressed to find a chocolate or candy salt nic salt pod at a brick and mortar location.
In fact, there are currently no candy flavored prefilled vape pods on the market. Chocolate has never been a factor. This matters because vape pods and nic salts are the style of vaping that is overwhelming preferred by minors. Adults have also shown a preference for small and easy to use devices.
Chocolate and candy were included in the survey for the sake of optics. They make great candy-flavored, kid-friendly, nicotine peddling boogie men. But it is not kids that are buying them. In the case of chocolate, it hardly sells at all.
Until Juul Mint was cancelled, it was the most popular flavor with minors. A menthol derivative and sold in a staid box, it is a far cry from the colorful vape juices and packaging that anti-vapers use as props. The Juul device itself is a picture of simplicity. But cancelling mint is difficult as it is a menthol derivative, and passing such a law would presumably require the heavy lifting of enacting a menthol cigarette ban.
The legacy of former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will not be one of friendship to the vaping industry but in the last year he has cast much of the blame for the uptick in teen vaping onto Juul. Juul was forced to back down on naming a flavor Creme Brulee, apparently a faux-French dessert that peaked in popularity two decades ago really resonates with today's youth.
But generally, their flavor profiles are fairly mild. Juul Mango is the closest flavor they had to the imaginary "kid-friendly" template. Mind you, Mint was the top selling flavor with kids. The did have a Fruit Medley. But it was considered by most to be comprehensively inferior to their Mint and Mango offerings.
Vape Flavor Bans
This begs the question: Why did the CDC include fringe flavors like chocolate and candy on their survey and not ask about nic salts or vape pods? The cynical answer is colorful flavors are necessary props for politicians like Senator Mitt Romney and crucial to the fruit flavor fallacy.
The fruit flavor fallacy is the misguided belief that vaping companies devise childish sounding vape juices to hook kids. It is the cudgel being used to smash and suppress the independent vaping industry.
The fruit flavor fallacy is an influential view. It makes sense on paper only if you have a superficial understanding of ecig marketing and customer preferences. Or your organization is tilting at fruit vape windmills and is ignorant of the changes that have occurred in the vaping market over the last five years.
The actual sales volume and target audience of “kid-friendly” flavors completely undermines this inaccurate line of attack. Unfortunately, fruit flavor fallacy is the foundation of some questionable public health recommendations.
In a recent press conference covered by CNBC, Mitt Romney complained about a low volume ejuice known as Scooby Snacks and Cuttwood’s Unicorn Milk. Tutti Frutti ejuice was mentioned by name in the SAFE Kids Act, an outmoded piece of legislation that failed to mention nic salts or vape pods even once. You know, the devices that kids are actually using.
Anti-vaping politicians have consistently fixated on the fanciful flavors found in high-vegetable glycerin, low nicotine vape juices. These juices are designed for box mods, the least kid-friendly device imaginable and preferred by vaping hobbyists. Box mods are loud and thirsty. They generate a lot of vapor. And they are the size of service revolver.
Politicians focused on these complex ejuice flavors and their creative names. But this style of vaping has been largely supplanted by smaller devices as both minors and adults have gravitated towards discrete and portable nic salt pods. The failure of politicians to figure out why kids vape and even what they are vaping is most alarming. They are picking on flavors and devices that peaked almost five years ago at this point.
If you are concerned that a minor in your charge is vaping, check out our guide to spotting teen vaping. It would be a lot easier to catch illicit use if teenagers were using trumpet sized box mods loaded with blueberry cheesecake vape juice. But their preferred devices, discrete and nearly silent vape pods fueled with potent nic salts, emit little vapor or odor.
The so-called "kid-friendly" flavors draw from inspiration from cultural and flavor references that predate vaping itself. Retro ejuice packaging that appeals to adult vapers. It is pure hubris to believe that minors give a whit about Tutti Frutti, Scooby Snacks, Nilla Wafers, Gummi Bears or any other dated cultural touchstone of a Gen-X or Baby Boomer childhood.
To use images of Reagan-era sugar coated cereals to lure kids makes about as much sense as a cigarette company in relying on the comedic stylings of W.C. Fields and images of young Katherine Hepburn to sell cigarettes to kids in the 1970s. It should be obvious that adults over 30 are the intended audience.
Not surprisingly, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a longtime adversary of adult access to both vitamin supplements and vaping, continues to support a flavor ban.
He was disappointed that a flavor ban was not bundled in with the tobacco 21 legislation. Tobacco-free Kids also remains dead-set on removing the flavors adults prefer from the market, no matter the consequences. A gold-standard of total nicotine abstinence for adults is easy to demand when no one you know or care about has ever smoked. The wealthy have given up smoking but continue to imbibe at higher rates than any other group.
According to the CDC, alcohol kills 4,300 minors annually and sends 130,000 to the emergency room. It is a scourge but gets nowhere near the attention vaping does. It turns out that it is much harder to infringe on the freedoms of your peers and family. It is just so much easier to pick on people you have never met who engage in alien habits that are viewed as alien and potentially corrupting.
Vape Ban End Game
The best that can be hoped for is it will buy time and perhaps allow cooler heads to prevail. The fruit flavor fallacy seems immune to facts, like all zombie vaping myths, but a drop in teen vaping that coincides with the new minimum age of purchase would go a long way towards defanging this argument.