Nursing & Healthcare News

Vaping Flavor Fail

FDA admits limits on flavored e-liquids have fallen short

Man is sitting down and holding a JUUL in his clasped hands

During a recent Congressional hearing, the FDA’s acting commissioner admitted that her agency’s efforts to restrict sales of flavored e-liquids that entice kids to try vaping are “fundamentally flawed” and haven’t achieved the desired goal.

Less Than Expected

In 2019, the FDA announced an ambitious plan to pull most non-tobacco-flavored vaping e-liquids from the market. Data shows that teen users of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are attracted by the range of flavors in which the nicotine-rich e-liquids are available.

The FDA’s actual enforcement plan, unveiled in January 2020, focused only on certain flavored liquids for cartridge-based refillable devices, exempting menthol-flavored liquids. Other flavors in non-refillable disposable devices and fill-it-yourself tanks in vaping shops were allowed if manufacturers took steps to limit youth access.

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Kids Find Loopholes

Speaking before the House Oversight Committee on June 23, FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., conceded that this enforcement plan is “fundamentally flawed policy” and has had “very negative consequences,” allowing ongoing youth vaping “at really unacceptable levels.”

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In the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 19.6 percent of high school students and 4.7 percent of middle-schoolers reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, and 82.9 percent of those kids said they used flavored e-liquids.

NYTS data suggests that many teens have simply shifted from cartridge-based e-cigarettes to disposable ones. Reported use of disposable ENDS products among middle-schoolers quadrupled between 2019 and 2020, and increased by more than 1,100 percent among high school kids. Teens’ use of menthol-flavored e-liquids also increased.

No Plan for Action

Despite her candor about the failure of the FDA’s current policy, Woodcock gave no indication that her agency will seek to impose a more extensive ban on flavored e-liquids. The FDA banned sales of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars on April 29, but that prohibition doesn’t include ENDS products.

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