Vaping groups slammed the Food and Drug Administration Friday over its plans to ban the sale of certain flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations.
The consequence of policy would be that smokers would continue with traditional cigarettes and face the negative health consequences that come with it, the groups warned.
“This is an ill-conceived and exceptionally dangerous move by the FDA,” said Liz Mair, spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization Vapers United. She warned adults looking to quit smoking would continue, go cold turkey, or turn to pharmaceuticals that carry side effects.
The FDA’s plans on e-cigarettes, first reported in the Washington Post, are expected to be rolled out next week, and will mean that certain e-cigarette flavors can be sold only in specialty vaping shops. The FDA will also require age verifications on websites where the devices are sold.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said that he is open to vaping companies showing that their products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes and can help people quit. But he said that giving companies more leeway in regulations has come at the cost of more young people taking up vaping. In advancing his position, he has cited agency data showing that vaping has increased 77 percent among high schoolers and roughly 50 percent among middle-schoolers.
Vaping opponents, including members of the public health sector, have long charged that e-cigarettes target teens because they come in multiple flavors intended to mimic fruits or desserts. Defenders of the flavors say that adults need an alternative that tastes nothing like traditional cigarettes to get them to stop smoking.
Greg Conley, president of the advocacy group the American Vaping Association, said that e-cigarette users who live in rural areas would have more trouble accessing the products under the FDA’s expected rule. As a result, he warned, they would abandon their search and turn to Marlboros or Camels, which are readily available at convenience stores and gas stations.
The decision expected by the FDA next week further pits the e-cigarette industry against the tobacco industry, which is developing vaping products of its own. Philip Morris last year submitted documentation to the FDA for iQOS, an electronically heated device. The company is seeking approval to market the product and is hoping the FDA will determine it is less harmful than traditional cigarettes. British American Tobacco, the owner of Reynolds American Inc., plans to submit its Glo product to the FDA this year.
Small e-cigarette manufacturers say the requirement to have their products reviewed are burdensome, unnecessary, and would create a black market of dangerous products. Having products approved by the FDA involves costly fees that they say smaller companies cannot pay, but that are easy hurdles for the multibillion dollar tobacco industry.
Conley said that Gottlieb had “done nothing in his tenure as FDA Commissioner to push for reasonable regulatory reforms on this sector of the industry.”
“Without reform, the small- and medium-sized American business that produce these e-liquid products will be decimated by inordinately expensive application requirements that only large tobacco companies are prepared to face,” he said.