29 Dec FDA Vape Juice Flavor Ban Impacts Convenience Stores
The FDA has decided to impose some restrictions on e-cigarette sales and vape juice flavors, and that’s going to make some big waves across the industry. Convenience stores and JUUL e-cigarette devices will likely be the hardest hit, but this decision will cause changes across the vaping and tobacco industries. How, exactly? Read on, as we dive into the particulars on this recent shake-up.
What Is the FDA Up To This Time?
It’s a controversial discussion that’s been going back and forth for some time now. On the one hand, some public health advocates are adamant e-cigarettes play an important role in getting lifetime smokers to switch to “less harmful” nicotine products.
They choose to focus primarily on these benefits, while others see a “gateway to smoking” that will have younger Americans “hooked on nicotine.” The FDA, for its part, seems to side more with the latter, seeking to “prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts” with sweeping regulations revealed on Thursday, November 15th, according to Reuters:
“[This] announcement will mean that only tobacco, mint and menthol e-cigarette flavors can be sold at most traditional retail outlets such as convenience stores. Other fruity- or sweet-flavored varieties can now only be sold at age-restricted stores or through online merchants that use age-verification checks.”
You can view the full press release from the FDA here, but, in addition to these restrictions, the FDA’s will also be seeking bans on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars (though they haven’t accomplished this goal yet), and, according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, these moves are all being made to protect the youth.
According to Gottlieb, this data presents a clear enough sign that “youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion” and that “[the FDA] must adjust certain aspects of [its] comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger.”
The reasoning is that the fruit and candy-flavored e-liquids are deliberately marketed at children and teenagers (causing the increase in teenage use of e-cigarettes) and that the FDA’s new rules are necessary to counteract the trend. The exemption for menthol flavors (for the time being) is due to the fact that the FDA has not yet been able to limit the use of menthol in traditional cigarettes, and they don’t want to create a situation where “combustible products have features that make them more attractive than e-cigarettes.”
This is just the first step out of many the FDA likely has planned, however, and it’s already going to bring big changes to e-cigarette manufacturers, along with vape shops and convenience stores.
How Will This Decision Impact the Industry?
The agency has been under increasing pressure to move against e-cigarette sales in recent years, particularly where popular devices like the JUUL are concerned. It comes as little surprise that these restrictions will hamper the sales of JUUL devices considerably. They had captured a large portion of the market, and seeing as the new restrictions apply to cartridge-based systems like theirs, they’ve much to lose in the coming months.
What’s more, locations that the FDA says are “not age restricted,” such as convenience stores, will see their ability to sell these products limited. So-called “age restricted locations,” on the other hand, places like vape shops that only sell to customers of 18 years or older, will see no new limitations placed upon their establishments:
“The FDA is not revisiting the compliance policy with respect to ENDS products sold exclusively in age-restricted locations – for instance, a stand-alone tobacco retailer (such as a vape shop) that adequately prevents persons under the age of 18 from entering the store at any time.”
Additionally, online vapor store sales will still be permitted, so long as sites comply with “heightened age verification processes,” that the FDA will informing retailers of “soon.” Though it will take some months for the new rules to go into effect and the necessary transitions to take place “on the ground,” as it were, for the foreseeable future, this could mean that gas station and convenience store purchases of many popular e-cigarette flavors will decline.
This may or may not bring about the FDA’s desired effect of “curtailing youth smoking,” but it will also limit purchasing options for those who normally purchase tobacco/nicotine products at convenience outlets.
They will either have to discontinue their purchasing of e-cigarette devices and flavors, perhaps returning to traditional cigarettes, or they’ll be giving their businesses to vape shops still authorized to sell the alternative products they desire.
It might mean an increase in traffic at dedicated vape shops and tobacco retailers, but all that remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that individuals like Dimitris Agrafiotis, the executive director of the TN Smoke Free Association, believe the FDA’s decision may do more long-term harm than good.
He argues that youth would start smoking regardless of whether or not vaping devices and flavors were available. Restricting access to them at gas stations and convenience stores, in his opinion, may force smokers who would otherwise be receptive to switching (but not quite comfortable stepping foot in a vape shop) to return to traditional cigarettes, a “delivery method that’s killing 440,000 Americans every year, unfortunately.”
And on the flip side of the argument are organizations who believe the FDA should do more, like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Truth Initiative.
In a joint statement, they argued that currently proposed rules would allow vape shops to expand their sales, and that “there is no solid evidence that vape shops do a good job of preventing illegal underage sales.” In their eyes, “the FDA needs to stop the sales of all flavored e-cigarette products that have not been subject to public health review by the FDA as the law requires.”
It’s clear that this issue will continue to serve as a battleground for opposing ideologies, and the decisions reached by the FDA will reverberate throughout the vaping industry once the dust has settled.