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Even though Trump vape ban does not apply, NJOY stops selling flavored cig-a-likes

When the Trump Administration announced its partial ban on flavored vapor products on January 2, 2020, the new regulations specifically applied to only closed systems pods and cartridges.  Exempt from the ban are e-liquids used in open tank devices and e-cigarette products that are “completely self-contained.”

A significant portion of the products manufactured and marketed by NJOY Holdings Inc. fall into the latter category.  Yet despite this immunity from the Trump flavor ban, the company is voluntarily deciding to halt the sales of its entire product line of fruity and dessert flavored vapes which includes fruity flavors like watermelon, blueberry, pineapple lemonade, and cherry crush. 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that company sales of cig-a-like devices like the popular NJOY Daily brand represent approximately 13 percent of the company’s profits.  The NJOY Ace - a cartridge-based e-cigarette similar in design to JUUL systems- comprises about 70 percent of NJOY’s sales.  Since the Ace varieties will become officially banned next week per the new vaping regulations, NJOY may be deciding that it’s simply easier to pull the plug on its entire portfolio of flavored vapor products simultaneously – legal or otherwise.

Related Article:   Ex-FDA Chief Gottlieb: JUUL is the problem, not adult vape shops

For the time being, the Arizona-based company will continue selling tobacco and menthol flavors of both cartridge-based and cig-a-like devices.  However, NJOY must still submit Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the May 2020 deadline just like any other vapor retailer. 

JUUL began phasing out production and sales of its flavored vapes products back in November 2018.  The first flavors to go were the mango, cucumber, and crème pods. By October of the following year – months before President Trump had even decided to enact a flavor ban of his own -  the world’s leading manufacturer of vapor products stopped selling all flavored vapes nationwide.  NJOY seems to be following JUUL’s lead.

NJOY, Peter Thiel, and Scott Gottlieb

PayPal cofounder and notorious rich guy Peter Thiele is rumored to be an on-again-off-again friend of President Trump.  Thiel is also a previous major investor in the NJOY brand along with the former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.  In fact, many political pundits suspect that Gottlieb won his position due to Trump and Thiel’s close relationship.

However, life for NJOY has not been all roses and sunshine since Trump took office.  Shortly after Gottlieb entered the FDA, the FDA began aggressively spreading the “teen vaping is a national epidemic” conspiracy theory.

By September of 2016 just months after the president’s inauguration, NJOY was filing for Chapter 11.  The reason cited by company officials at the time for the filing of bankruptcy was a dramatic decrease in sales thanks to Gottlieb’s then-recently announced FDA deeming regulations of which the PMTA process was a considerable component 

Related Article:   Shake up at the FDA: Califf is out as Trump eyes buddy of NJOY investor Peter Thiel

For the first time in history, the FDA was reclassifying electronic cigarettes and e-liquids as “tobacco products” – even though both are 100 percent tobacco-free. As such, NJOY would be forced to submit PMTAs for each and every product on the market if the company wanted to remain in business.  At an estimated minimum cost of $300,000 per application, NJOY representatives believed that bankruptcy was the only available option.

NJOY’s bankruptcy announcement took the vaping industry by storm, and many other retailers began publicly acknowledging that closing up shop was also on the table for the foreseeable future.  This added pressure from the American vaping industry may be why the Trump Administration by way of FDA Chief Gottlieb decided to push back the PMTA deadline by almost five years to May 2020. 

NJOY and companies like it may have skirted bankruptcy for this brief window of time, but the proverbial bill for those extra five years may be about to come due.  Gottlieb is now gone from the FDA, and the public outrage over vaping fueled by a misreported “vaping related lung disease” is at hysteric proportions.

The chances of the new FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless delaying the PMTA deadline yet again are slim to none.  NJOY’s halting of its sales of all flavored vapes may be just the beginning. 

Related Article:  NJOY files for bankruptcy; blames FDA deeming costs and poor sales

(Image courtesy of CPS Daily News)

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