LAKEVILLE, Minn. — The White House and governors in Michigan and New York have called for bans on the sale of flavored nicotine vapor products. There are a number of public health issues that have received a great deal of attention in recent months: youth experimentation with e-cigarettes, the potential attraction of flavored products to youth and, most recently, lung illnesses and deaths that are increasingly becoming identified as mostly likely related to use of illicit THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) products.
Last week, President Donald Trump and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spoke about a federal effort to be undertaken to restrict or outright ban the sale of most flavored nicotine vapor products. A week earlier, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she would use emergency powers to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in Michigan. Also, on Sept. 15, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference indicating that he would attempt to ban flavored vapor products by emergency executive order.
The federal action was explained in a press release issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week following the White House announcement. While the release did not specifically state that the agency would attempt to use the previously issued proposed guidance document issued in March 2019, the comments may indicate that the FDA will prioritize its enforcement on all flavored e-cigarettes except tobacco-flavored products. However, until the final compliance document is issued by the FDA with more specific details, the actual electronic cigarette products that would be affected are not yet known.
The reaction from consumers, vapor businesses and public health professionals was immediate and widespread and appears to have gotten the attention of the president. After the White House announcement, President Trump refined his prior comments by tweeting, “While I like the Vaping alternative to cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL! Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!”
The president’s comment suggests some maneuverability on what flavor restrictions end up looking like. Like the president, retailers have worked to keep products out of the hands of underaged persons and to eliminate illicit trade and counterfeit products. We are currently updating our retail members at NATO, and it is critically important that officials hear the informed perspectives of retailers, manufacturers and consumers going forward.
Thomas Briant is the executive director of NATO, a tobacco retailing association based in Lakeville, Minn. Reach him at email@example.com.