Flavored Vape Pods Banned

Trump Flavor Ban Targets Vape Pods

The FDA has finalized a new enforcement policy on cartridge based e-cigarettes. Flavors, including fruit and mint, can no longer be used in closed e-cigarette systems.

This means that adults using prefilled vape pods will have to vape either menthol or tobacco flavors, rather than the sweeter ejuices that they overwhelming prefer. Open e-cigarette devices using bottled ejuices are not impacted. Vape shops are largely spared and rural vapers reliant on convenience store bought pod systems are punished.

Because of the relatively low numbers of youth using both menthol- and tobacco-flavored, cartridge-based ENDS products, these products are not among the current enforcement priorities. However, should the FDA become aware of an increase of youth using any other flavored products (both cartridge-based or otherwise), the agency will take additional steps to address youth use of those products if necessary. 

New FDA Vaping Regulations

The target of the new regulations were prefilled nic salt vape pods. Juul may have pulled their most popular flavors in 2019 but the new rules certainly had the San Francisco based e-cig giant in mind.

The Juul device was a smash hit with adult smokers and vapers because it was easy to use, discrete and satisfying due to its use of potent nicotine salts. Before the Senate investigation of Juul and decimation of their flavor lineup, Juul controlled 75 percent of the vaping market.

Check out our deep-dive: The Truth and Technology Behind Juul and Nic Salts Revealed

Vuse and MyBlu will be hit extremely hard by the new regulations. They had not yet pulled their flavors and have worked hard with discounted devices to grab brick and mortar market share from Juul. NJoy has an all-in-one device, the NJoy Daily, which avoids getting banned as it does not have a detachable pod.

Inexplicably, the classic cigalike cartridge systems are swept away by new regulations. This style of device has been available for a decade and provides an experience akin to a cigarette. They were not popular with minors but regulators proved incapable of devising rules that preserved the legality of the classic cigalike.

As of February 1st, our customers will no longer be able to purchase Vapor Titan cartridges other than menthol and tobacco or the flavored pods for the Vuse and MyBlu devices. Blank cartridges will still be permitted and can be filled with the same flavors that our prefilled cartridge customers have long enjoyed.

Bottled ejuices and refillable devices will remain legal in states where they are permitted

Enter the iQOS

There is one major winner with the new e-cigarette regulations: Phillip Morris. They have every reason to believe that the FDA approved iQOS will dominate the brick and mortar cigarette alternative market.

The heat-not-burn device no longer need to compete with the flavors most popular with adults. Instead, the only competition will be the less popular tobacco vape juices that a majority of adults have long avoided.  

Their biggest potential rival is gone. Juul Mint was pulled from the market this fall. The most popular vape flavor with adults, as well as minors, it would have been the iQOS’s most formidable competition in the brick and mortar arena.

The iQOS also benefits from the serious, entirely unjustified, black eye that nicotine vaping suffered this fall.  The careless coverage of an outbreak of vaping lung illness repeatedly conflated commercially available electronic nicotine delivery systems with black market THC cartridges. Both were referred to as generic "e-cigs".

The cause of vaping lung illness had been identified by the state of New York and industry experts as early as August. The CDC was slow to release information demonstrating vitamin E acetate was responsible, despite the fact that the cause was identified way back in August.

Recent coverage of this announcement has clarified this issue a bit, but a very salient point is often overlooked. The New England Journal of Medicine published the CDC findings and explained why vitamin E acetate was not found in a single nicotine vape sample.

“Pure THC oil has a viscosity like that of vitamin E acetate. Cutting THC oil with vitamin E acetate has been reported to be common in the illicit market.9-11 The FDA reports that most case-associated THC product fluids contain vitamin E acetate, at an average concentration of 50% by weight, ranging from 23 to 88%.8 By contrast, the FDA detected no vitamin E acetate in 197 case-associated nicotine products analyzed to date. The viscosity of vitamin E acetate makes it undesirable as an additive to nicotine solutions; the propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin in nicotine solutions create a fluid with a much lower viscosity than that of vitamin E acetate.

New England Journal of Medicine, Vitamin E Acetate in Bronchoalveolar-Lavage Fluid Associated with EVALI

Vaping Critics Not Satisfied

Not surprisingly, wiping out the vaping device and flavor combination which dominated the segment for the last 3 years not enough for the critics of vaping.

They are still demanding that smokers and former smokers adhere to a gold standard of total nicotine abstinence. There is no room for cigarette alternatives in their world view. The somehow view new regulations that wipe out all of Juul's most popular flavors and leave the refillable devices sold at vape shops untouched as a victory for Juul. A stark reminder that a total flavor ban and eventual prohibition remains their goal.

Never do they acknowledge the failure of nicotine replacement therapy. Vaping destroyed nicotine replacement therapy in a New England Journal of Medicine study earlier this year. This result is considered unacceptable because more the vapers continued to vape after one year, as opposed to the much larger segment of nicotine replacement therapy users who continued to smoke.

They remain in denial about the fact that the National Health Service in the UK promotes vaping and host a Using E-Cigarettes to Quit Smoking website. The UK healthcare system is publicly funded and they are quick to discard modalities that are prohibitively expensive or ineffective.

The standard being applied to vaping certainly is not applied to alcohol. According to the CDC, underage drinking is a scourge which kills 4,300 minors each year and sends 130,000 to the emergency room.

In an alarming turn of events, San Francisco has punished marginalized groups with a vape ban that disproportionately impacts the LGBTQ+ community. Those who lack the mobility and financial wherewithal to obtain smoking alternatives outside of city limits are funneled back onto combustible cigarettes.

Demanding that adults totally abstain from a legal activity would get you laughed out off almost any bay area social circle and branded as a mouth-breathing reactionary. But if the target is nicotine, a puritanical mindset is perfectly acceptable.

Why Kids Vape

Anti-vapers are out to completely suppress the independent vaping industry and remain fixated on flavors. The recent Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the CDC, which examined why kids vape, found that flavors were not the primary motivation. Social motivations and curiosity were by far the top reasons. Flavors barely beat out vape tricks.

The fact that adults can still obtain sweeter vaping flavor profiles remains an affront, even though the company which dominated 75 percent of ecig sales has had their lineup of products completely gutted. If anyone thought that anti-vapers would be satisfied when they collected Juul’s scalp needs to reevaluate the true motivations of anti-vaping groups.

Activists like the Truth Initiative are looking for prohibition and remain fixated on flavors, untroubled by the ample evidence demonstrating that adults prefer flavored vapes and children are not being lured by so-called “kid-friendly” flavors.

Expect complaints about the fact that the most fanciful flavors of all are still available. These are the high-VG juices enjoyed in devices like the box mod. The box mod is the least kid friendly device imaginable. Loud, thirsty, and the size of a service revolver.

These flavors never were meant to appeal to kids. There is a reason why so many have names based on Reagan-era sugar coated cereals and candies that peaked in popularity 30 years ago.  

The fixation on flavors leads to embarrassing displays, like Mitt Romney complaining about flavors named Scooby Snacks and Cuttwood's Unicorn Milk, a high VG, low nic formula designed for the aforementioned, kid-unfriendly box mod.

Apart from the fact that Scooby Snacks sales are a rounding error for a company like Juul, it is inexplicable that they cannot grasp the simple concept that a flavor that refers to a 40 year old cartoon is clearly targeting someone who is at least 40 years old.

Also worth noting, marketing to Millennials is not marketing to minors. Millennials range from 24 to 40 years of age as of 2020. The great drop in smoking rates did not impact the bulk of this generational cohort.

2018 Smoking Data

The Safe Kids Act referenced Tutti Frutti, Gummi Bears and other staples of a previous century by name. Using such dated references to market to someone born in 2003 makes about as much sense as a tobacco company wheeling out images of Marlene Dietrich and relying on the comedic stylings of W.C. Fields to sell cigarettes to a child of the 1970s.

Teen Vaping

The goal is to end the teen vaping epidemic is a worthy one. Vapor4Life will not sell to minors and has no interest in selling our products to adults who do not already smoke or vape.

The announced policy is not as harsh as the total flavor ban proposed this fall but it still ends up driving vapers who obtain their e-cigarettes at a gas station or convenience store back onto combustible cigarettes. It is not industry destroying but it also does not give the recent tobacco 21 legislation a chance to take hold.

It is unfortunate that the attributes that have made the Juul device and other prefilled vape pods popular with adults make it extremely easy for a minor to conceal.

Unlike a loud and thirsty box mod, a vape pod can used covertly and is close to silent. If you are concerned that a teenager in your charge is vaping, check out our guide: How to Spot Teen Vaping.

Strict E-Cig Laws Punish Marginalized

As is always the case, strict vaping laws punish marginalized groups. Rural adults reliant on gas station and convenience stores for their cigarette alternatives will no longer have access to their favorite flavors. This will surely drive many back into the waiting arms of Big Tobacco.

Rural adults may not have access to a vape shop where an employee can help curate and troubleshoot their transition to a refillable device. A long-time foe of Big Tobacco, Iowa AG Thomas Miller outlined the cruelty and shortsightedness vaping restrictions in his letter to the FDA.

Why would public health experts want to adopt a policy that ends up promoting cigarette use? The wealthy have quit smoking. With little access to the levers of power, politicians have shown no qualms about cutting off current smokers from ash and smoke free alternatives.

A lack of familiarity explains why alcohol, marijuana use and other high risk teen behaviors only receive a fraction of the attention that vaping does. It is viewed as a disreputable activity only enjoyed by minors and defended by shills and astro-turf groups. Adult vapers are entirely alien to them and their lives of no concern.

Ignoring Minority Vapers

The CDC’s study, “Cigarette Smoking and Tobacco Use Among People of Low Socioeconomic Status” outlines the severe impact that smoking has on the less affluent. Adults lacking a high school education succeed in quitting cigarettes only 43.5 percent of the time versus 73.9 percent for college graduates. Adults earning more than twice the poverty line are only half as likely to smoke as adults living below the poverty line.

The CDC reports that African American smokers generally consume fewer cigarettes, make more quit attempts and are less success at quitting than their White and Hispanic counterparts. 

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health conducted a study into racial and ethnic differences among e-cigarette users. They found that African Americans were more likely to embrace e-cigarettes as a cessation aid than Whites and Hispanics. They were also statistically more likely to avoid the dual use of e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes, transitioning entirely to electronic nicotine delivery systems at a higher rate.

This study operated under the premise that “evidence based” methods such as nicotine replacement therapy were more effective than e-cigarettes, and that transitioning to e-cigarettes was not a worthwhile end goal.

In order to defend their vision of total nicotine abstinence, the study’s authors worked hard to explain away widespread skepticism about nicotine replacement therapy and the embrace of e-cigarettes by the African Americans smokers.

In light of a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study that found e-cigarettes were nearly twice as effective as nicotine replacement, it is time to revisit how these results were interpreted. It certainly was not the purpose of either study but it managed to illustrate the negative impact that e-cig bans may have on the African American community.

Vaping and the LGBTQ+ Community

The LGBT community vapes and smokes at a higher rate than any other. The CDC found that 20.3 percent of adults that identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual smoke cigarettes, versus an overall rate of 14 percent. Bisexual women are over twice as likely to smoke as heterosexual women.

The LGBT population in the US is three times more likely to use electronic cigarettes: 7.5 percent versus 2.6 percent. This is the highest rate for any group surveyed.

Smoking rates among the transgendered have been estimated at over 80 percent and studies have tied this to structural discrimination. As a whole, the smoking rate in the LGBT community kills over 30,000 annually and leads significant health disparities.

Cutting off marginalized groups from the cigarette alternatives and flavors they prefer is likely to have unforeseen consequences.