Hello and happy hump day, readers!
The reckoning has begun for the e-cigarette and vaping industry. Following increasingly urgent reports of an epidemic of youth vaping and hundreds of cases of mysterious lung illnesses—and, now, six deaths—allegedly linked to such products, the Trump administration is moving to ban flavored e-cigarettes from the market altogether.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar in a statement on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
This story has escalated rapidly. While the Obama-era Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gave the FDA far more authority to regulate tobacco products like conventional cigarettes, e-cigs weren’t added to the agency’s purview until 2016. By then, the youth vaping trend had already begun to accelerate—and, now, Azar states an estimated 5 million American school children vaped in the past year.
(Anecdotally, I’ve heard from a number of school teachers that children as young as 12 or 13 have openly vaped in their classrooms, and that administrators have had to develop new protocols to prevent on-campus vaping.)
So what comes next? First, the FDA will release its official guidance and rulemaking over the next several weeks. This is expected to include requirements that any flavored vaping products, or those that aren’t specifically “tobacco” flavored, would have to yank such products from the market within 30 days. Companies that take offense would have to justify remaining in stores by showing their products are more beneficial than harmful (a claim that Juul has previously made, much to the FDA’s chagrin).
There is, of course, also the specter of litigation. There are now several lawsuits, including at least planned class-actions, against Juul over health and safety concerns and marketing allegedly targeting teens.
Much more on this soon.
Read on for the day’s news.