The new FDA vaping rules are here, and they aren’t as bad as expected

Over the past several months, FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb has been appearing in mainstream media while threatening a series of new, harsher regulations for the American vaping industry.  His main issue of contempt seems to stem from internal data suggesting a 70 percent rise in teen vaping over the past year. 

During his media blitz this summer, Gottlieb has consistently attacked the vaping industry by accusing multiple vendors of using kid-appealing marketing practices designed to attract and engage underage purchases.  He’s also aggressively taken issue with the names of several favored e-liquids, especially those that mimic the branding styles of popular candies, cookies, cereals, and other child-friendly grocery products.

As his indignation towards teen vaping grew more pronounced, FDA Commissioner Gottlieb openly considered a ban on the sales of all flavored e-liquids whether purchased online or through typical brick-and-mortars.  In an interview at an Axious-hosted event in Washington DC this summer, he contemplated banning all vape sales entirely, including vape mods, coils, tanks, and other technology.  And in the meantime, he’s even launched an FDA probe into teen vaping while specifically targeting some 26 vapor companies – Juul Labs most specifically.

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Why Juul?  Because research indicates that Juul products are the most popular among middle and high school students.  Coincidentally, the sales of Juul flavor pods and devices also boast about 70 percent of the total market share in the United States. 

Well, those new FDA regulations were just announced yesterday, and they do not appear to be as potentially devastating to the vaping community as many were anticipating.  In fact, it appears as if Gottlieb is taking great pains to provide clear and decisive distinctions between vaping and smoking – or rather vapor products versus combustible tobacco products.

Overview of the new FDA vaping regulations

FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb’s new vaping regulations first appeared in a Thursday press announcement.  They are extensive, well-written, and multi-faceted.  Here are some of the key points that refer to vaping specifically.

  1. Vapes must be treated differently than conventional cigarettes, cigars, and other combustible tobacco products. Gottlieb takes the honorable step of publicly recognizing that vaping is significantly less dangerous to public health compared to smoking. 
  2. Gottlieb seems to have a special place in his heart for American vape shops. Although the document discusses several new revisions to FDA compliance policies and regulatory requirements, in most cases he specifically states that “vape shops” and other age-restricted venues are excluded.
  3. Gottlieb also says that the FDA is “revisiting the compliance policy” for flavored vapes sold in brick-and-mortars that are not age restricted (gas stations, convenience stores, and the like) in an effort to prevent teen vaping.
  4. However, tobacco, menthol, and mint flavored vapor products are excluded from the anticipated brick-and-mortar regulatory revisions. In fact, Gottlieb even takes time to explain his reasoning.   Gottlieb has his eyes on banning all menthol cigarettes and other flavored combustible tobacco products.  He knows this will be a difficult habit to kick for millions of American smokers.  According to Gottlieb, he’d rather menthol-loving smokers have menthol-flavored vapes to fall back on as a tobacco harm reduction tool (stop-smoking aid).  This is especially noteworthy because it appears that Gottlieb would rather menthol smokers transition to vaping rather than simply switch to a non-menthol brand of cigarette.
  5. Regarding the totality of the new regulatory updates, online vape shops have nothing to fear from the FDA – yet! Gottlieb says that “the FDA will continue to enforce the law (prohibiting underage sales) whenever we see online sales of these products to minors”
  6. However, the FDA is “revisiting” the issues of online age verification and other age-restrictive protocols. In other words, e-commerce websites had better help the FDA reduce teen vaping across America – and quickly – or else!
  7. The FDA threatens to “remove” certain kid-appealing vaping products from the market place – either online or otherwise), especially those “using popular children’s cartoon or animated characters, or names of products favored by kids like brands of candy or soda.”

In the days prior to the release of these new regulations by the FDA, the Big Tobacco company Altria announced that it would be pulling its portfolio of flavored cigalikes and other vaping products from store shelves effective immediately.  Juul Labs took a similar action just this week.

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