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Trump officially bans flavored vape pods; Ironically, JUUL remains completely unaffected

For well over two years now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been publicly claiming that there is a teen vaping epidemic.  This government-sanctioned anti-vaping movement was originally spearheaded by former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, and the single, most predominant source of his anger and angst has been JUUL.

Yet when the Trump Administration officially announced its ‘temporary’ ban on flavored vape pods yesterday, zero of the new regulations will have any direct effect on the nation’s most popular vapor product among teens.  Business will continue as usual at the JUUL Labs corporation. 

Related Article:  NYT: Trump to announce flavor ban; open-system vaping might be okay

Per a new FDA guidance policy issued Thursday, all flavored, prefilled, closed-system vaping products like pod-styled JUUL or cartridge-based alternatives like VUSE must be removed from store shelves within 30 days.  The only exempted flavors are menthol and tobacco.  Other specifics include the following.

      • Open tank systems and flavored refillable e-liquids are exempt.
      • Adult-restricted vape shops can continue to sell open tank devices and e-liquids but must refrain from selling flavored pod-style or cartridge-based products.
      • Online websites using adequate age identification processes will also be safe from selling closed-system products…for now.
      • The FDA reserves the right to ban any flavored vapor product in the future where the agency deems the manufacturer has failed to take adequate preventative measures for underage access.
      • The FDA reserves the right to ban any flavored vapor product in the future where the agency deems the manufacturer or retailer is engaging in “kid-appealing” marketing or promotional strategies. 

The companies which will be most affected include RJ Reynolds, manufacturer of VUSE, Japan Tobacco International, maker of Logic, and the Blue cigalike devices produced by Imperial Brands.  Independent vapor retailer NJOY – of which Gottlieb was once a major financial investor – will also take a huge hit in sales.

Trump flavor bans is a BIG WIN for JUUL

Ironically, the JUUL brand will remain completely untouched by the new Trump flavor ban.  When the non-profit organization The Truth Initiative learned of the new anti-flavor policies, representatives issued an immediate response by tweet

“A new federal policy is a win for JUUL and e-cig makers — flavors like unicorn vomit & gummy bear will stay on the market. The policy puts politics & profits ahead of young people’s and gives the green light for the youth e-cig epidemic to continue.”

Related Article:  Despite Trump's apparent reversal on flavor bans, FDA considers new vape policy

Last year, the nation’s most profitable vapor conglomerate had already stopped selling all flavored vapes other than menthol and tobacco. This essentially means that- after months of deliberation and anxious debate -  the Trump Administration has just announced a national flavor ban policy that is an almost exact duplicate of JUUL Lab’s internal marketing strategies.  In other words, Trump has just singlehandedly removed a significant percentage of JUUL’s competition from the marketplace for the indefinite future.

Trump vape ban is not ‘temporary’ either

While the president is saying that the new FDA flavor guidelines are only temporary, this statement does not appear to be factually based.  Trump is hanging his hat on the fact that all retailers of vapor products – flavored or otherwise – must submit Pre-Market Tobacco Applications or PMTAs by May 11 per the FDA Deeming regulations.  Therefore, in his mind, the flavor ban should only last about six months. 

Related Article:  Former FDA Chief Gottlieb: Any vape ban should ‘carve around the vape shops’

The reality is that the FDA can, and probably will, reject any PMTA application that it likes and for any reason.  Those applications that the FDA chooses to accept for review will be granted a 12-month extension.  The applications that it refuses to review will face immediate and permanent expulsion from the market.  The new FDA guidance protocols for flavored vaping announced January 2 do nothing to address the issues surrounding the PMTA deadline.

The President may not be fully aware of the severe pushback that he is about to experience.  Neither tobacco control lobbyists nor vaping advocacy groups are happy with this political half-measure.  The only party that seems to be pleased is JUUL Labs, and they will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Related Article:  What politicians aren’t telling you about vaping: Teen smoking rates at all-time lows

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