As noted elsewhere in the AARC Advocacy Section, use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) among high school and middle school students has reached epidemic proportions. Scientific evidence shows that youth are especially attracted to flavored e-cigarettes, such as gummy bear, mango, and cotton candy. According to data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), nearly all (97%) current youth e-cigarette users use flavored e-cigarettes.
To address the issue, the Trump Administration announced in September 2019 a plan to ban all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market, including mint and menthol. AARC and other organizations sent letters to the President and First Lady in support of the proposal. However, it did not take long for the vape shops most impacted by the policy to begin their intense lobbying efforts and for the President to start wavering due to concerns about job loss and political fallout in an election year. Subsequently, AARC and others sent follow-up letters to the President and First Lady strongly recommending they “stay the course” and not be influenced by the vape shop owners whose slogan is “WE VAPE, WE VOTE.”
Unfortunately, the Administration scaled-back the vape ban in a policy announcement on Jan. 1, 2020. The new policy will ban flavored e-cigarettes contained in closed e-cigarette cartridges, such as those manufactured by JUUL; however, menthol and tobacco-flavored products will remain on the market. As a concession to the vape shops, all flavors used in refillable vaping devices typically sold in vape shops will remain and are not affected by the new policy. This retreat by the Administration, in which industry concerns take precedence over health protections for our nation’s youth, has generated an outcry of national professional and public health organizations who issued statements opposing the change. AARC posted its objection to the policy on social media and in an AARC News item.
Designated products must be removed from the market within 30 days from the date the Food and Drug Administration publishes a notice in the Federal Register, expected the week of Jan. 6, 2020. It is unclear whether further changes will be warranted if new evidence reveals little impact on the youth e-cigarette epidemic.