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Is the Government Coming for Your E-Cigarettes?

Young woman with her head in a cloud of vapor smoke
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 16, 2019 9:00 AM

After a rash of vaping-related respiratory illnesses this summer -- an estimated 500 cases, including six deaths, in over 30 states -- the federal government announced plans to crack down on e-cigarettes, highlighting an upcoming ban on flavored e-cigs and nicotine pods.

"We can't allow people to get sick," President Donald Trump declared in an Oval Office press conference. "And we can't have our kids be so affected."

The federal action comes on the heels of various city and state measures prohibiting the sale of flavored varieties or banning e-cigarettes entirely, although the particulars of the plan have yet to be finalized.

Where There's Smoke

The FDA backed off plans to ban flavored vaping accessories last year, believing that voluntary action from industry leader Juul to limit accessibility in retail locations would cause teenage use to decline. Instead, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II, recent studies showed an increase in youth vaping, with five million minors admitting to using e-cigarettes recently.

Those numbers, along with the spike in vaping sicknesses and pressure from First Lady Melania Trump, spurred the government to act. "She's got a son," Trump said, referring to their 13-year-old child, Barron. "She feels very strongly about it."

The Heat

Nothing is set in stone yet, but the reported proposals under FDA consideration include:

  • Removing all flavored vaping products (except for tobacco-flavored offerings) from the market within 30 days
  • Requiring producers of other flavors to apply to resume sales
  • Basing FDA approval on proof that the benefits of the product outweighs the risks, including the potential exposure to underage vapers

Days before the White House meeting, the FDA also sent a warning letter to Juul, advising the company to stop telling school children that it's products "99 percent safer" than cigarettes, "much safer" than cigarettes, "totally safe," and "a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes." Additionally, CNN declared it would stop advertising e-cigarette products. (Televised cigarette ads have been illegal since 1970.)

So, if you're a flavored e-cig fan, vape 'em while you got 'em, I guess.

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