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Trump Administration Policy Provides Roadmap for E-Cigarette Makers to Keep Addicting Kids with Flavored Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 05, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – No one should be fooled: The Trump Administration’s new e-cigarette policy being implemented this Thursday (February 6) will not stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic that is addicting a generation of our kids.

Rather than clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes as the Administration promised in September, the final policy is riddled with loopholes that allow thousands of flavored e-cigarette products to remain available at more than 100,000 locations across the country, including convenience stores, gas stations and vape shops. Far from protecting kids, this policy provides a roadmap for e-cigarette makers to continue addicting kids with flavored products. Flavored e-cigarettes will remain almost as available to our nation’s kids after February 6 as they were before – unless Congress, states and cities take action to prohibit all flavored products.

Kid-friendly, flavored e-cigarettes that will remain widely available under the Administration’s plan include:

  • Disposable e-cigarettes like Puff Bar and Mojo that often look just like Juul, the best-selling e-cigarette among kids, and are quickly gaining in popularity with kids (as reported by The New York Times and other media). These products come in a wide assortment of kid-friendly flavors – Puff Bar flavors alone include banana ice, cool mint, pink lemonade and many others. These products are also colorfully packaged, cheap, easy to use and hide, and deliver massive doses of nicotine. Don’t be misled by their name: Despite being “disposable,” these products can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and even higher nicotine levels than Juul.

  • Nicotine e-liquids that are sold in over 15,000 flavors. These come in outrageous candy, dessert, fruit, cereal and other flavors – from cotton candy and gummy bear to fruit loops and choco donuts. These products often have high nicotine levels and are cheaper than Juul, making them appealing to kids. The availability of these nicotine e-liquids is a serious problem because they come in containers that allow users to easily and quickly pour the liquid into refillable cartridges that fit into a Juul or into other products like Suorin and Smok that are popular with kids.

  • Sleek, refillable e-cigarettes like Suorin and Smok. With over 10% of the youth market between them, these are already the most popular e-cigarette brands among high school students after Juul, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey. These devices can easily be filled with e-liquids in unlimited flavors and varying nicotine strengths.

  • Menthol varieties of Juul and other cartridge/pod-based e-cigarettes. Decades of experience with cigarettes demonstrate that menthol appeals to kids – in fact, over half of current youth smokers smoke menthol. Kids are likely to shift to menthol if it is the only available flavor for pod products like Juul. (It’s also important to note that empty, Juul-compatible pods are already being sold and can be filled with any flavored e-liquid.)

View images and learn more about the flavored e-cigarettes that will be left on the market.

It is imperative that policy makers, as well as parents, educators, health care providers and kids themselves, understand the wide assortment of flavored e-cigarettes that will remain on the market and the serious health risks they pose to kids.

The Administration’s failure to protect our kids makes it critical that Congress, states and cities do so by prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes. A growing number of states and cities are taking action. Congress should pass the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, which, among other things, prohibits the sale of all flavored tobacco products. The House is expected to vote on the measure in the near future. The bipartisan SAFE Kids Act would also curtail the use of flavors in e-cigarettes and certain other tobacco products.

Despite the Administration’s new policy, the Food and Drug Administration also has the authority to take these products off the market now because of their obvious appeal to youth and the complete lack of evidence that they help smokers quit. There is no case that the continued sale of banana ice, cotton candy or choco donuts disposable e-cigarettes or e-liquids benefits public health and can meet the standard set by law to stay on the market.

The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes are driving the youth epidemic. Most youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and cite flavors as a key reason for their use. In contrast, there is only limited evidence that e-cigarettes help adult smokers quit and no credible evidence that flavored e-cigarettes do so. As the U.S. Surgeon General concluded in a comprehensive report last month, “There is presently inadequate evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes, in general, increase smoking cessation.”

Only the elimination of all flavored products can end the youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop e-cigarette companies from luring and addicting kids. There is no time to waste because the youth epidemic continues to get worse and more than 5.3 million kids now use e-cigarettes, including over 1 in 4 high school students.