Some flavors of e-cigarettes now banned by FDA

While the number of individuals suffering from an acute, vaping-related injury remains steady at just over 2,500, federal regulations on the devices contributing to the deathly illnesses appear to just be heating up.

On Tuesday, in a highly-anticipated move, the Food and Drug Administration announced a ban on flavored e-cigarette cartridges, including all fruit and mint flavors, but — notably — excluding menthol and tobacco (which is indeed considered a flavor here). Based on the new rule, companies will have 30 days to remove these flavored vaping products from their shelves before risking disciplinary action from the FDA.

While major retailers like Juul have already removed most flavored pods, earlier brands like NJOY will now have to take action. But both brands may benefit from a loophole in the legislation, which allows vaping stores to continue to sell “vape tanks.” Similar to pods and cartridges, tanks are stronger, long-lasting nicotine-containing devices that allow consumers to mix different flavors on their own and receive a stronger hit.

Although companies like Juul sell single-use pods only, online retailers have begun selling Juul-compatible tanks. On top of permitting this method of flavoring, health experts are taking issue with the decision to allow menthol to remain on the market. Technically considered a flavor, menthol offers a cooling effect with a minty taste that has the potential to be appealing to teens — the majority of whom prefer mint over other flavors.

As a result, the decision has been characterized as a reversal from President Donald Trump, who in September declared a plan to ban all flavored e-cigarettes outright, including tanking devices.

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A smoker is engulfed by vapours as he smokes an electronic vaping machine during lunch time in central London on August 9, 2017. - World stock markets and the dollar slid Wednesday after US President Donald Trump warned of "fire and fury" in retaliation to North Korea's nuclear ambitions, sending traders fleeing to safe-haven investments. In Europe, equities dived with London losing 0.6 percent, while Frankfurt shed 1.1 percent and Paris fell 1.4 percent. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
File - In this April 16, 2019, file photo, a researcher holds vape pens in a lab at Portland State University in Portland, Ore. Today Juul and hundreds of smaller companies are at the center of a political backlash that threatens to sweep e-cigarettes from stores shelves nationwide as politicians scramble to address two separate public health crises tied to vaping: underage use among teenagers and a mysterious and sometimes fatal lung ailment that affected more than a thousand people. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2019, file photo, electronic cigarette pods are displayed for sale at a shop, in Biddeford, Maine. Today Juul and hundreds of smaller companies are at the center of a political backlash that threatens to sweep e-cigarettes from stores shelves nationwide as politicians scramble to address two separate public health crises tied to vaping: underage use among teenagers and a mysterious and sometimes fatal lung ailment that affected more than a thousand people. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 3: A woman holds up a regulated box mod vaporizer during a "Let Us Vape Not Smoke" rally outside of the Massachusetts State House in Boston on Oct. 3, 2019. Within hours of Governor Charlie Bakers emergency ban last week on vape sales, products that consumers and medical marijuana patients had relied on for years suddenly disappeared from store shelves. Ten days later, the unintended consequences of the countrys strictest anti-vaping measure are coming into focus: customers crossing the border to buy e-cigarettes in New Hampshire, former smokers switching back to cigarettes, sick patients fearfully experimenting with unfamiliar alternatives, and others turning to the illicit market despite the risk of tainted products. Now, the Baker administration is facing a series of lawsuits and protests, part of a growing backlash from critics who insist the hastily conceived ban will ultimately harm, not improve, public health. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A sign advertises Juul vaping products in Los Angeles, California, September 17, 2019. - New York became the second US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes September 17, following several deaths linked to vaping that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign advertises Juul vaping products in Los Angeles, California, September 17, 2019. - New York became the second US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes September 17, following several deaths linked to vaping that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Flavored vaping products containing nicotine are seen in a store in Los Angeles, California, September 17, 2019. - New York became the second US state to ban flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday, following several deaths linked to vaping that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
A man smokes an electronic cigarette inside a vape shop in Washington, DC, on July 9, 2019. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: E-juice, used in e-cigarette vaporizers, is displayed at Smoke and Gift Shop on June 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously, 11-0, to be the first city in the United States to ban e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: E-Cigarette vaporizer components are displayed at Smoke and Gift Shop on June 25, 2019 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously, 11-0, to be the first city in the United States to ban e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Still, in a statement from the FDA, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar insists the move is part of a “comprehensive, aggressive” approach to curbing the spike in teen use of e-cigarettes, which is estimated to include as many as five million nationwide.

“By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth,” said Azar. “We will not stand idly by as this crisis among America’s youth grows and evolves, and we will continue monitoring the situation and take further actions as necessary.”

Whether or not the regulations are stringent enough, the ban is inarguably a step forward in controlling a product that has enjoyed, virtually, free rein of the market since its arrival in 2007. The FDA, which announced this fall that e-cigarette companies would have until May 2020 to submit for approval, has struggled to gain regulatory control of the product — in part due to companies classifying them as “smoking cessation products.”

Without specific rules on their products or marketing, parents, educators and school districts now allege that companies like Juul were able to specifically target kids. Juul denies these claims, insisting that it never meant to market to teens, nor create a product that could cause longterm damage. (At the time of publishing, Juul had not returned Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment on the new regulations). The company now faces countless lawsuits for which it will need to bolster this statement with evidence.

But based on Tuesday’s new ban, it seems the days of unregulated e-cigarettes may be over — which is exactly what FDA commissioner Stephen M. Hahn is aiming for.

“As we work to combat the troubling epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, the enforcement policy we’re issuing today confirms our commitment to dramatically limit children’s access to certain flavored e-cigarette products we know are so appealing to them ...” Hahn said in a statement. “We will continue to use our full regulatory authority thoughtfully and thoroughly to tackle this alarming crisis that’s affecting children, families, schools and communities.”

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