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The federal ban on flavored vape products that took effect this past February remains in place, while bans on flavored cigarette products at the state-level are either still in place, have lapsed or have been made permanent.
- Many of the flavor bans that were enacted as a response to the EVALI outbreak last year were meant to be temporary, but several states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts have opted to make their vape flavor bans permanent.
- New York and New Jersey are both going through with a bill that also bans all flavored vape products except for tobacco flavors.
- Regulations vary state-by-state so this article will provide a greater picture of how long other flavor vape bans will last.
Table of Contents
- The Federal Ban
- CDC and FDA Response
- Pre-Market Approval Deadline
- Voices Against Bans
- Things You Need to Know about Flavor Bans
- Closing Thoughts
Federal Flavor Ban
The Trump administration enacted the federal ban on flavored vape products on February 6th, 2020. The ban was a direct result of the outbreak of a mysterious lung disease tied to vaping that spread through all 50 states and claimed close to 60 lives.
In the early days of the outbreak, authorities were unsure of what was causing the illness in otherwise healthy people.
The cause of the illness was later tied to Vitamin E acetate, which counterfeit vape makers used as a filler in liquid THC cartridges.
Even though the majority (86%) of those who fell ill reported using counterfeit, liquid THC cartridges, only 11% reported vaping nicotine exclusively.
Despite these differences, authorities were quick to assign blame to nicotine vaping products as well.
The resulting panic led to states taking action to ban the sale of flavored nicotine products. Flavored vapes were already the target of growing condemnation for their supposed role in the teenage vaping “epidemic.”
Parent groups, along with public health officials all pointed to the Juul and other pre-filled vape devices as the cause for the attraction among young people, including minors, to vaping.
The vaping illness outbreak was the final nail in the coffin. It was the spark that lit the fire that laid waste to vaping’s reputation among the public.
EVALI (e-cigarette and vaping associated lung illness) was all the justification state legislators, and later, the federal government needed to enact bans on flavored vaping products in the name of public safety.
Disease Control, Out-of-Control
It was in late February 2020, when the number of cases and emergency room visits started dropping that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified the cause of the mysterious lung affliction. The CDC pointed to Vitamin E acetate as the most likely culprit.
The additive was mixed into illegal, black-market THC cartridges, which victims later purchased via informal channels or got through friends.
As of this writing, no nicotine vaping products (flavored or unflavored) have been found to contain Vitamin E acetate or any other potentially harmful chemicals.
Neither has there been any specific e-liquid, disposable vape or pre-filled, nicotine cartridge tied to the outbreak.
Despite the lack of evidence pointing at flavored e-liquids as a cause in any EVALI cases, both the CDC and FDA urged Americans to stop vaping THC and nicotine altogether. State governments then enshrined that warning into legislation.
States went further than issuing warnings, as more people fell ill and more people died, by going ahead with full-scale bans on all flavored vape products, excluding tobacco and menthol-flavored vapes.
Michigan was among the first to enact a temporary ban on the sale of all flavored nicotine products in early September of 2019.
H3 – Where was the FDA?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government body responsible for regulating the cigarette and e-cigarette industry.
It’s also the organization that was best positioned to have prevented the outbreak of the vaping illness, only it was caught in between a rock and hard place in the years and months before the worst happened.
In the lead-up to the EVALI outbreak of 2019, the government regulator was taking heat from all sides in the vaping debate. Anti-vapers believed the FDA was not doing enough. V
apers and vaping industry groups accused the FDA of smothering small-business owners with too many unreasonable regulations. The compromise that the FDA reached with vape manufacturers was the Pre-Market Tobacco Product Application scheme.
The PMTA would have forced vape manufacturers to submit an application to be approved for sale on the open market.
The compromise was viewed as favoring Big Tobacco. It was only the giant vape companies – often owned by Big Tobacco companies – that were able to comply with the FDA’s onerous regulations, which dictated such things as testing and retesting ALL the ingredients in an e-juice to pass.
Public health groups also threw up their hands in frustration at the PMTA. They felt it was too lenient on vape makers, and some groups even sued the FDA in federal court to overturn the scheme.
The FDA gave all vape makers the arbitrary date of May 12th, 2020 as the deadline to submit their final applications.
No one expected what would happen next.
What Happened to the May 12th PMTA Deadline?
On May 12th, 2020, the US reported 82,000 deaths related to the Covid-19 outbreak. Battling back the spread of Covid-19 became the only focus of every public health authority in the country and the world.
The panic and fear caused by the EVALI outbreak were eclipsed by a new, deadlier threat that, like EVALI, seemed to have come from nowhere.
The May 12th deadline that the vaping community had come to call the “Vapecopalyse” became a barely visible footnote to the greater danger at large.
With cases and deaths from Covid-19 rising every day, the FDA set a new deadline for the PMTA – September 9th, 2020. There is no word on whether the agency will push back the new deadline.
The country is slowly reopening after close to three months on lockdown and it is hard to determine anything about the future right now.
Amid the first worldwide pandemic in one-hundred years, though, states that enacted temporary flavor vape bans have quietly made those bans permanent (Rhode Island, Massachusetts).
Standing Up for Vapers
Rhode Island and Massachusetts both passed their permanent bans on flavored vape products with little fanfare or protest.
New York and New Jersey are also set to enact sweeping bans on flavored vapes excluding tobacco and menthol, while both states deal with the devastating fallout of Covid-19.
Despite the focus shifting to Covid-19, there are still people who are fighting the good fight against government over-regulation and overreach. Some facts are worth spreading about the negative effects total and permanent vape bans have rather than “protecting” people.
These negative effects touch on all aspects of society from the financial to healthcare to taxation.
One person who has persistently put forward the sobering realities of vape bans has been Charles A. Gardner, Ph.D. who was a Senior Adviser to the WHO and the current Director of the Foundation-For a Smoke-Free World.
Dr. Gardner has consistently focused on the studies pointing out the effect vape bans have on smoking trends.
He cites a study of San Francisco’s vape ban that showed teens and adults were driven to illegal, black-market vape products (the very same products that led to the EVALI outbreak) because of the ban.
The study also concludes that vaping bans alone are not effective to combat e-cigarette use.
More Reasons Vape Bans Don’t Work
The other reasons Dr. Gardner puts forward as to the ineffectiveness of vape bans include the fact that prohibitions end up benefiting Big Tobacco companies.
The reasoning behind this is that vapers who have no way to buy their needed products will end up going back to cigarettes.
Dr. Gardner also points out that states who ban these products then miss out on the potential tax revenue that they can deliver to the state’s finances. These taxes can then help fund anti-vaping messages or reduce underage consumption through public awareness campaigns and outreach programs.
Can I still buy flavored vape products?
Yes, in certain states you can still buy flavored vape products. The laws in a majority of states still allow for the sale of flavored e-juices beyond just tobacco and menthol-based e-juices.
Individual e-liquids are also exempt from most bans. The federal ban exempted disposable vapes, as well as open-system tanks, which are most favored by typical, adult vapers.
Can I still buy flavored Juul pods?
The only flavor of Juul pods available now is tobacco and menthol. The company pulled its flavored pods from the market in response to withering criticism about how the flavored pods were attracting underage users.
Closing Thoughts – Flavored Vape Products: The Fight Continues
The unfortunate and preventable deaths of over sixty Americans from a mysterious illness forced the federal and state governments to take action. While no one is saying nothing should have been done to curb the outbreak of this illness, there is an argument to be made that too much was done.
Adult vapers who vape responsibly should not have to suffer for the actions of a few bad actors. No one is for underage vaping.
There has to be a middle ground between total prohibition and protecting young people from vaping that does not leave out those people who turned to vaping as an alternative to smoking.
Now that “temporary” bans have become permanent, and everyone’s focus has turned to another, much more lethal illness engulfing the world, it is more important now than ever to speak up and be heard.
Some vape bans have lapsed or have been fought in court (Michigan, for example) so there is still hope to roll back some of the regulations that were started in a climate of fear rather than reason.