Federal Government Bans Flavored Vaping Pods and Cartridges

By  //  January 24, 2020

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It’s been a difficult several months for the American vaping industry. This year, the industry has dealt with two major controversies over which legitimate vaping product sellers had no control.

It’s been a difficult several months for the American vaping industry. This year, the industry has dealt with two major controversies over which legitimate vaping product sellers had no control.

  • A new lung illness emerged and sickened more than 2,000 people. Authorities knew immediately that the illness had something to do with vaping, but it took several months to confirm that the illness was caused by illegal vaping products containing THC – not bottled nicotine e-liquid from specialty vape shops like E-Cigarette Empire.
  • The 2019 Youth Tobacco Survey showed an enormous increase in underage e-cigarette use. Although the fallout from the survey generated widespread negative publicity for the entire vaping industry, the survey showed that the vast majority of teens who vape use just one brand: JUUL.

Citing both of the above, President Trump announced in September 2019 that he would be instructing the FDA to remove all flavored e-liquids from the market, with tobacco remaining as the only legal vape juice flavor.

Vape shop owners around the country wondered if their businesses were going to disappear overnight.

That didn’t happen, but the government did eventually arrive at a compromise that the President hoped would curtail teen vaping without destroying the entire industry. In this article, we’ll explain what happened and describe what your outlook now looks like if you vape.

Research Shows President’s Statement Is Ill-Advised

Immediately after President Trump proposed the flavored e-liquid ban, allies in the Republican party stepped forward and told Trump that the ban could be extremely detrimental to his political future.

In the 2016 election, Trump won in several key battleground states – such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia – by extremely narrow margins. In all of those states, the populations of adults who vape are far larger than the margins by which Trump won in 2016.

Many vapers claim to be single-issue voters who will vote against anyone who takes away their right to vape. Political researchers concluded that banning flavored e-liquid, therefore, had the potential to sink Trump’s entire 2020 reelection campaign

After that news came out, Trump largely went quiet on the vaping issue. It was obvious that he was reconsidering his original statement.

Government Compromises, Issues New Vaping Regulations for 2020

In late 2019 and early 2020, the federal government enacted two new rules. Combined, the new rules represented a compromise that the government hoped would put a stop to teen vaping without shutting the industry down or restricting adult access to vaping products.

  • The minimum age for buying tobacco and vaping products was raised nationwide from 18 to 21.
  • All flavors except tobacco and menthol for pre-filled vaping pods and cartridges were banned. 

The government hopes that raising the minimum age for buying tobacco and vaping products will prevent 18-year-old high school students from buying those products and reselling them to their underage peers. In addition, since teen vapers almost exclusively use the JUUL e-cigarette, the ban on flavored pods should make vaping much less attractive to them.

Meanwhile, adults who vape can continue buying the flavored bottled e-liquids that most of them have always used. 

Traditional tobacco retailers such as convenience stores and gas stations have always been the most common outlets through which people have purchased the flavored pods that are now banned. Specialty vape shops, on the other hand, earn most of their money from selling bottled e-liquid.

Although it’ll take time to see the full results of the flavored pod ban, it appears on the surface that the ban has the potential to reduce teen vaping without putting the independent vaping industry out of business or angering the vaping voters whose support Trump will need in 2020.

Trump Expresses Regret Over Involvement in Vaping

Shortly after the flavored pod ban was enacted, President Trump reportedly said on a conference call that he “never should have done that […] vaping thing.” That statement was quickly disseminated in news sources across the country, but it’s important to note that the outcome might have been the same either way.

Trump wasn’t regretful about the flavored pod ban; he merely regretted the fact that he allowed the vaping issue to potentially compromise his political future. He could easily have left the issue to the FDA and let someone else handle the fallout from angry vapers and business owners. 

What Does the Flavored Pod Ban Mean for You?

If you’re an adult who vapes, the flavored pod ban potentially means several things for you. 

  • If you already use bottled e-liquid, nothing will change for now.
  • If you use an e-cigarette with flavored pods or cartridges, flavors other than tobacco and menthol will become unavailable. Already, retailers are selling their remaining stocks at clearance prices. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
  • If you prefer to use e-liquids in flavors other than tobacco and menthol, you’ll need to transition to bottled e-liquids. An easy way to do that is by buying refillable cartridges or pods for the e-cigarette that you’re already using. You’ll have an even better experience, though, if you switch to a vape pen with a refillable tank.
  • Flavored pods and cartridges remain available in other nations such as Canada. You can import vaping products, but any risks involved in doing so will be yours alone.

Will Flavored Pods and Cartridges Become Legal Again?

It’s very likely that at least some flavored pre-filled pods and cartridges will become available again in the future. While the ban on those products takes effect immediately, the companies that make those products can still submit pre-market applications for those products to the FDA.

If they complete the pre-market application process successfully, they can resume selling their products. By May 2020, all vaping product manufacturers must submit pre-market applications for all of their products in order for those products to remain on the market. 

A pre-market application for a vaping product must demonstrate that the product represents a net benefit for public health and that it will not encourage nicotine use among those who don’t already use nicotine.

Since companies that make pre-filled vaping products typically have very small and simple product ranges, the pre-market pathway is the simplest and least expensive for companies that make those types of products.